Ambassador Spratlen's Interview to the Kyrgyz Public TV and Radio Corporation
June 19, 2011
KTRK: Today we have the new U.S. Ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic, Pamela Spratlen, as a guest of the First Public Channel. Welcome.
What do you think of the current state of Kyrgyz-American relations? How do you think they are developing? What is the prospect and what requires special attention?
Ambassador Spratlen: First of all I would like to thank you for this opportunity to appear on your program today. To your audience I say salamatsyzdarby. And I would just like to say that I've been here less than one month but already I have learned a great deal and been very impressed with what I have seen in the Kyrgyz Republic.
I would say that the relationship between the Kyrgyz Republic and the United States is an extremely strong one. Particularly in the last year there has been, I would say, an uptick in our relationship. For example, President Otunbaeva has been twice to the United States. First on the margins of the UN General Assembly, and second in March of this year.
When I arrived I was extremely impressed that I was received so quickly by President Otunbaeva, by the Speaker of the Parliament, Mr. Keldibekov, and by the Prime Minister.
Just last week I traveled to Washington. Your Foreign Minister, Mr. Kazakbaev, also traveled to Washington for the first annual bilateral consultations, which is a policy dialogue between our two countries.
During those discussions in Washington the two sides, Mr. Robert Blake who is the Assistant Secretary for south and Central Asian Affairs, and Mr. Kazakbaev, were able to discuss the full range of bilateral issues. That means they discussed political issues, economic issues, educational, social, cultural, cooperation between our two countries, and security issues.
Of course the relationship between the United States and the Kyrgyz Republic was established very quickly after the Kyrgyz Republic received its independence. So I would say our relationship has been developing steadily and has reached a very strong level.
KTRK: Now that you have arrived to the Kyrgyz Republic, was there anything that surprised you? Maybe your meetings with the Kyrgyz leadership and how your relations with the Kyrgyz leadership are developing?
Ambassador Spratlen: As I mentioned, I was surprised to be received so very quickly and so very warmly by the leaders of the government and I was very pleased by that. I was not surprised. I had heard that the Kyrgyz Republic had very warm people, a very open society. And I am pleased to say that that's what I have found since I have come. This has been true not only here in Bishkek where I have had the chance to meet with some of the leaders, I hope to continue that very soon. But also when I traveled to Osh on the 3rd of June I also had a very warm reception there.
KTRK: There is an opinion in Kyrgyzstan and+ in general in Central Asia that there is competition over the region between Moscow and Washington, over the influence in the region. Do you think there is such competition? What do you think?
Ambassador Spratlen: As I noted, the United States has been very supportive of the Kyrgyz Republic since the country obtained its independence and its sovereignty. We have respected that as have all the other friends and partners of the Kyrgyz Republic since that time.
As you know, President Obama has been pursuing a very different policy toward Russia. We call it the Reset. I think there have been a number of elements to that. One of them has been the ability to cooperate in other countries such as the Kyrgyz Republic, and I can give you a couple of examples.
The first example is cooperation to eradicate polio in the Kyrgyz Republic. There was a press conference not long ago in which I was there, the Deputy Minister of Health was there, officials from the Russian Federation and the international community to celebrate the fact that there were no new cases of polio in the Kyrgyz Republic thanks to this cooperation.
I think counter-narcotics is a great worry. Narcotics coming from Afghanistan and traveling north. I think there is a great willingness on the part of the government of the Russian Federation and our government and regional governments to cooperate together to combat this scourge in the region.
Of course all countries in the region who have embassies here will pursue their interests, but we really do see the possibility of cooperating with various partners including, of course, our Kyrgyz friends and the Russians as well. I am pleased to say that I was able to meet with my counterpart, Ambassador Vlasov, also shortly after I arrived.
KTRK: Kyrgyzstan is a unique case. It's the only country in the world that hosts two military bases. One is American, the other is Russian. And now that there are plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, what is the future of this transit center? And there are also talks that a military training facility will be launched in the south of the country. Can you comment on that?
Ambassador Spratlen: You have asked a question that has several parts, so let me break it into pieces.
The first piece is to express what the United States has expressed many times including at the annual bilateral consultations in Washington, which is our appreciation to the government and to the people of the Kyrgyz Republic for their consistent support in hosting the transit center at Manas International Airport since 2001.
The transit center, as you know, is a logistics hub and almost all of the soldiers coming from the United States or elsewhere going to Afghanistan and those coming out of Afghanistan transit through the Manas Transit Center.
There are also many goods and supplies for these troops that pass through the transit center. So the role that the Kyrgyz Republic playing is extremely important in the international effort to help Afghanistan find stability.
I think all countries, both those in the region and those across the globe wish very much for the success of this effort because we would all like to see stability in Afghanistan.
There are, as you noted, discussions going on in the United States right now about our overall effort in Afghanistan, its duration and the nature that it will continue to take.
I think because those discussions are ongoing it's very difficult to talk about what may happen in the future. A lot depends on the situation in Afghanistan itself, the government gaining strength, and the ability to control its own territory.
For that reason I think we will continue to rely on the transit center for the near term, and again we are very grateful for that support.
With respect to the issue of other things that may be constructed. You mentioned that there may be a facility of some kind built in the southern part of the country.
I would say that we have not received any proposals, so I'm not in a position to comment on what may happen with respect to that idea. But that said, we of course are very much interested in cooperating with our Kyrgyz partners on both counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism and we'll continue those discussions to find out what is the best avenue for that cooperation.
KTRK: In early May the International Commission of Inquiry released its work on the 2010 June events in the south of the country. When you assumed your office in Kyrgyzstan in early May, the International Commission of Inquiry released its report on the 2010 June events in the south of the country. And when you assumed your office in Kyrgyzstan you stated that you support that report.
Do you believe the Kiljunen Report is completely objective and directed at strengthening inter-ethnic unity?
Ambassador Spratlen: Before I answer that question I would just like to note that the country has just come through the one year anniversary of the tragic events that took place in the southern part of the country last year. This was an extremely difficult period and of course the United States renews its condolences to all who lost their lives or were injured.
I think it is a tribute to the people and the government of the Kyrgyz Republic that this anniversary passed in a solemn way and without any incidents or violence. The United States has been supportive of some reconstruction efforts and reconciliation efforts and we will continue to be supportive of those efforts.
With respect specifically to the Kyrgyzstan International Commission Report, I would say that the report itself had the support of many countries because the international community cared a great deal about the events of last year and wanted to assist the Kyrgyz Republic.
Mr. Kiljunen was the chair of the Commission. It had members who were all very professional people in the international community, who came together and interviewed many people, looked at many documents, and prepared their document in a very short period of time according to their mandate.
A group of people in the international community coming into a situation that's extremely complex, examining some but not all of the documents, put together an important report but of course it was not perfect.
My own understanding of the situation has been, I think, enriched and enlarged by the public debate that has taken place just since I have been here. I think it's important to note that the government prepared a response to the report and I had the opportunity to read that. Of course it's also very very important.
So I think that the most important thing moving forward is to take those recommendations that the members of parliament and the government believe can be used and are constructive to help with the process of finding justice and of seeking greater peace and reconciliation for the Kyrgyz Republic.
I would just say we believe the report has made a contribution. It cannot be taken alone. And we look forward to continued work with all elements in the Kyrgyz Republic to try to move the country to the place that all members of the Kyrgyz Society would like to be. A more peaceful, a more unified society.
KTRK: What would you like to wish to the viewers of the First Public Channel?
Ambassador Spratlen: Most of all I would like to wish the people who are viewing this program health, of course, greater prosperity, and of course good friendship with all neighbors and friends, including the United States. I think this is especially important in a year when the country will be having presidential elections later on. And continuing to develop its political reform, its economy, and the society as a whole and the United States is prepared to support those efforts as the Kyrgyz Republic moves forward.
So I would like to thank you very much for the opportunity to appear with you today, and I hope that this will not be the last time. I hope that we will have future opportunities to have discussions about the bilateral relationship between our two countries and the relationship between our two peoples.