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Kyrgyzstan will push for "close engagement" with EU says President Almazbek Atambayev


Kyrgyzstan will push for "close engagement" with EU says President Almazbek Atambayev


Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev has been on an extended tour of Europe meeting major European Union leaders. He plans to go to Moscow soon to sign up to full membership of the Russian-led Eurasian bloc. He spoke to euronews’ correspondent Andrei Beketov

Euronews: “Mr. President, welcome to euronews. Can we regard your visit to Brussels as something of a farewell before Kyrgyzstan joins the Eurasian Economic Union in May and when you will stop getting closer to the European Union?”

Atambayev: “On the contrary. I think, as a part of the Eurasian Union, Kyrgyzstan will be pushing it towards tight engagement with the European Union. Europe should extend from Lisbon and Brussels – to Vladivostok, and of course, I think, to Bishnek.”

Euronews: “Why did Bishnek decide to associate with Moscow rather than with Brussels?”

Atambayev: “We are ready to join the European Union. But when, two years ago I said that we are always ready to sign an agreement with the EU, I was told that it has no common border with Kyrgyzstan.”

Euronews: “Is this the only obstacle?”

Atambayev: “Apparently so. There is only one reliable road for us to Europe. It goes through Russia and Kazakhstan. I think that together we will move in this direction.”

Euronews: “Human rights bodies criticise Kyrgyzstan for following the Russian example in preparing laws ‘against gay propaganda’ and for registration of ‘foreign agents’. Aren’t you losing already your democratic gains and liberties?”

Atambayev: “You know you are confusing Kyrgyzstan with other ‘stans’. Our Parliament considers any laws. When I am asked such questions it show that many people think in old way. In Kyrgyzstan it’s the Parliament that decides what laws to adopt. And often the laws are such that I have to veto them.”

Euronews: “There is also a proposal to remove official status from the Russian language in Kyrgyzstan. We remember what happened following a similar move in the Ukraine.”

Atambayev: “Our Parliament has already attempted to adopt such a law. I vetoed it then. They failed to overrule my veto. When a revolution happened in Ukraine, we were probably the only ones in Central Asia who congratulated Ukraine with this revolution last February. We urged the Ukrainians to pay special attention to inter-ethnic issues. Because we remember that in 2010, a few months after our own revolution, certain forces have organised inter-ethnic clashes in Southern Kyrgyzstan, as today in the South of Ukraine. And we warned Ukrainians about that.”

Euronews: “What is the attitude in Kyrgyzstan to Russia’s actions in Ukraine and it’s annexation of Crimea?”

Atambayev: “Of course, we have always supported the territorial integrity of any country. At the same time the current situation in Crimea is a result of a referendum. I’m sure that if they were to conduct it again, dozens of such referendums 90 percent of the Crimeans would still vote for Crimea to be with Russia. Actions? We believe that the current conflict should be stopped, a compromised solution should be found. There should be very accurate and detailed implementation of the Minsk agreement.”

Euronews: “Russia is in increasing international isolation because of this situation. Isn’t it pulling Kyrgyzstan into this islolation?”

Atambayev: “Sanctions that are being used to punish Russia are hurting the whole region very badly including the economy of Kyrgyzstan. I believe that the future does not belong to the escalation of the conflict between Europe and Russia. The future belongs to the settlement of this conflict. Europe should be one and undivided.”

Euronews: “You were the first statesman to meet with President Putin on March 16 after his mysterious disappearance. What is your impression – is he in a mood for a showdown with the West, with the European Union on this issue?”

Atambayev: “Putin is the man who put Russia together again. Of course, President Putin does not need this confrontation. At the same time he wants to protect the interests of Russia and, first of all, of the Russian-speaking population in the south-east of Ukraine and in general, apparently, in the Ukraine.”

Euronews: “One of the main threats for the European Union comes from the so-called Islamic State. Do you think that your country can cooperate with the EU in containing this threat?”

Atambayev: “When trillions of dollars are being spent on wars in Afghanistan or Iraq or Libya or elsewhere you can’t stop them with force. They can be stopped only by showing an example of at least one country – democratic, secular Muslim country. I’m tired of pointing out that it would be much cheaper just to help Kyrgyzstan build a secular democratic state in our Muslim country. But you know, we are left with no real support from the democratic countries.”

Euronews: “Can you name some of the fruits of your long-term interaction with the European Union?”

Atambayev: “We make good use of the example of the European Union itself and of the developed democratic countries in Europe. There is a saying that ‘rather than giving somebody a fish, it’s better to teach them how to fish’. We successfully learn how to fight corruption in Kyrgyzstan, conduct clean and fair elections and get rid of the so-called ‘untouchables’ (the privileged ). We learn from the European countries how to build a fair and democratic society. This is at least something that we take from them. So far so good.”

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