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No 'Counterrevolution' in Kyrgyzstan

Tuesday, February 15, 2005; Page A16

Regarding the Feb. 4 editorial "Counterrevolution," I would like to address inaccuracies and provide some context for the current events in Kyrgyzstan with respect to two issues: the upcoming elections and the U.S. and Russian military presence there.

First, the five Central Asian republics, formerly part of the Soviet Union but independent since 1991, deserve to be treated as distinct entities. Judging all on the basis of the behavior of and events in one does them and American readers a disservice.

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Kyrgyzstan, which gained independence on Aug. 31, 1991, is only 13 years old. Recent protests by the opposition, led by former foreign minister Roza Otunbayeva, are a sign of a healthy democratic process. The elected parliament, not the president, has ruled against her application for candidacy, which she admits was late. Other former diplomats also wished to run for office, and their petitions were denied as well in conformity with the existing legislation. That legislation must be changed by the parliament, and that cannot be done before this month's elections. Planning on all sides might have avoided the problem, but learning a new political process takes time.

With respect to the Kyrgyz position on Russia, from the early days of independence Kyrgyzstan has sought close relations with both Russia and the United States.

Kyrgyzstan's decision to deploy U.S.-led anti-terrorist forces at the Gansi Air Base near Bishkek was made after consultation with, and with support from, Moscow. The United States and Kyrgyzstan maintain a relationship of cooperation, and the United States continues to be a driving force in the development of our country.

The Russian base at nearby Kant is indeed "a key element of security in Central Asia," because it provides security measures under the Collective Security Treaty of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Russia was, is and will continue to be a strategic partner for Kyrgyzstan. The success of reforms in our country will be affected by the course of similar processes in the Russian Federation.

Kyrgyzstan is struggling to ensure that democratic processes maintain a strong foothold while attempting to build, with both U.S. and Russian cooperation, a viable economy that will support a democratic populace in a threatened region. Presenting our options only in Cold War terms misleads The Post's readers.

BAKTYBEK ABDRISAEV

Ambassador

Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic

Washington


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