In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

Clinton Calls Acting Leader of Kyrgyzstan

Posted by seumasach on April 11, 2010

“Earlier in the day on Saturday, the United States Embassy issued a statement that stopped short of endorsing the new government.”

New York Times

11th April, 2010

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — The United States made its first high-level contact with the interim government of Kyrgyzstan on Saturday, getting assurances that the new leadership would live up to previous agreements and allow American use of an airport that plays an important role in supplying the war effort in Afghanistan.

But a statement posted on the State Department Web site did not say exactly how long the United States could count on using the airport.

The initial agreement last June was supposed to last a year, and the long-term prognosis for the use of the airport has been considered murky, in part because Russia has bridled at the American presence in a region it considers part of its zone of influence.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called the transitional leader, Roza Otunbayeva, in Bishkek, the capital, late Saturday evening, according to the State Department and Ms. Otunbayeva’s chief of staff.

In the State Department statement, Philip J. Crowley, a spokesman, added that Mrs. Clinton was sending Robert O. Blake, an assistant secretary of state, to Kyrgyzstan.

The new government here, which took control after protesters stormed the presidential building early last week, also has been moving quickly to solidify its relations with Russia. About an hour before Mrs. Clinton called, the prime minister of Russia, Vladimir V. Putin, put in a second courtesy call since the government was overthrown on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day on Saturday, the United States Embassy issued a statement that stopped short of endorsing the new government.

“We remain a committed partner to the development of Kyrgyzstan for the benefit of the Kyrgyz people and intend to continue to support the economic and democratic development of the country,” the statement said. The United States has provided medical aid from the military airport, it said.

After two days of looting and several cases of arson, the capital was calm for a second day on Saturday.

Azimbek Beknazarov, an acting minister for economic affairs, said at a news conference that he knew the whereabouts of the ousted president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, but that the government would not try to arrest him, for now.

Mr. Bakiyev has taken refuge in the south of the country and, authorities say, is moving from place to place in the company of a small group of supporters.

On Saturday, the authorities here said they had learned that Mr. Bakiyev had been distributing weapons to supporters in the region. But Edil Baisalov, Ms. Otunbayeva’s chief of staff, dismissed any threat of a civil war in Kyrgyzstan.

He said the officer corps and army garrisons in the south were loyal to the new government.

The opposition leaders took power after street protests that began with a demonstration against rising utility rates in a provincial city.

On Wednesday, soldiers guarding Mr. Bakiyev’s offices opened fire on demonstrators, killing as many as 75 people before the protesters swarmed into the building.

Mr. Bakiyev took power in 2005, also after a popular uprising, promising democracy and an end to corruption. His opponents say that he quickly became as corrupt and authoritarian as his predecessors.

After Mr. Bakiyev fled the capital on Wednesday, Ms. Otunbayeva, a former foreign minister, announced that she would lead a “people’s government” until a new constitution could be written and elections held. The next day, she spoke by phone with Mr. Putin, who offered support.

Ms. Otunbayeva traveled twice to Moscow before the uprising, in January and March, Mr. Baisalov said, and she told Russian officials about “the nature of the relationship of the Kyrgyz people to Bakiyev.”

He said the same message, foreshadowing the overthrow of the government, was given to the American and European officials.

Mr. Baisalov said that Russian diplomacy in the region had shifted since the “color revolutions” that overthrew entrenched leaders and installed pro-Western governments in the former Soviet Union — in Georgia in 2003, Ukraine in 2004 and Kyrgyzstan in 2005 — and that the new government here had taken note.

“It’s no longer the Pavlovian response that if you talk to the Americans, you must be pro-American,” said Mr. Baisalov, a civil society activist who returned from exile in Sweden to join the new government. “It’s much more nuanced.”

Russia now has a “pragmatic” stance that accepts some Western influence, while seeking recognition for the aid to the Kyrgyz economy it has provided.

Outside the Kyrgyz capital, several victims of the violence received a hero’s burial at a cemetery in the foothills of the Tian-Shan Mountains reserved for significant national figures, including those killed in Stalin’s purges in the 1930s.

The ceremony was complete with rifle volleys and speeches by the country’s interim leaders, who described those who died as patriots.

Ms. Otunbayeva said the people shot by government troops and the police “fought for the freedom of our people.” She vowed to find those responsible, but she asked the relatives of the dead to be patient.

“We will do all we can to seek justice for our people,” she said

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