Astana has promised to open Kazakhstan’s border with Kyrgyzstan almost one month after the violent regime change in Bishkek. Astana remained reluctant to re-open the border despite numerous pleas from the Kyrgyz. The cost of the closed border was high – Kyrgyz businesses claim millions of dollars in losses. As Chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Kazakhstan has also pledged that it will work on a special strategy to help stabilize Kyrgyzstan (www.akipress.kg, May 5).
Four months into its OSCE chairmanship, Kazakhstan has claimed credit for its positive role in Kyrgyzstan. Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister, Kanat Saudabayev, stated that in its role as the OSCE chair Astana has been actively involved in negotiating with the “key players” in former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s regime, as well as members of the international community, including UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon (Vremya novostei, May 5). “Thanks to intense mediation by the OSCE, UN and EU, an agreement was reached with Kurmanbek Bakiyev to transfer him out of the country. This was an important step towards resolving the situation in the country, preventing a civil war,” Saudabayev told reporters.
Saudabayev further noted Kazakhstan’s humanitarian aid and fuel supplies sent to Kyrgyzstan in April. Saudabayev said that Astana remains concerned about the situation in Kyrgyzstan and will closely monitor the constitutional referendum and parliamentary elections. Saudabayev hopes to increase the OSCE’s ability to resolve conflicts and continue to generate international efforts to stabilize Kyrgyzstan.
Former President, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, meanwhile, is currently in Belarus, under the protection of the Belarusian President, Alyaksandr Lukashenka. On May 4, he told Reuters that he has not received any official appeal from Kyrgyzstan’s interim government concerning Bakiyev’s extradition. “But I want to immediately declare officially: such an appeal would be hopeless and humiliating for the interim government. The president of Kyrgyzstan is under the protection of the Belarusian state and its president,” he said. The location of Bakiyev’s sons, Maksim and Marat, as well as his brother, Zhanysh Bakiyev, remains unknown.
In response to Lukashenka’s statement, the Chief of Staff in the provisional government, Edil Baisalov, said that issuing a formal extradition request to Minsk is a technical question to be resolved “sooner or later” (www.charter97.com, May 5). He also added: “It is the right of the Belarusian leadership not to extradite Bakiyev. But the position of Kyrgyzstan remains unchanged: Bakiyev is a dictator who usurped power, and the whole world watched the shooting of peaceful demonstrators. However, we are not going to quarrel with the people of Belarus because of a bloody dictator.”
Given that Kazakhstan has limited experience in holding free and fair elections, as well as staging public debates on constitutional reform, Astana’s potential contribution to democratic change in Kyrgyzstan might be limited. Instead, Astana can help Kyrgyzstan pressure Belarus to extradite Bakiyev. The OSCE, Collective Security Cooperation Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the CIS might also be useful avenues to pursue this.
There is growing pressure on the provisional government to punish Bakiyev for his involvement in corruption and allowing the bloodshed on April 7. On May 4, the provisional government issued a decree depriving Bakiyev of his presidential immunity. The government now promises up to $100,000 in exchange for information leading to the capture of Bakiyev’s infamous family members.
Meanwhile, Kyrgyzstan’s provisional government has been trying to accomplish several innovative goals. These include public oversight over the national TV and radio channels, staging open debate on the constitutional reform and changing the structure of the security sector. These efforts might be undermined if competition within the provisional government over parliamentary seats intensifies. Tension among members of the provisional government is becoming more evident over cadre politics. More political leaders, including those linked to former President Askar Akayev, argue that the proposed parliamentary political system is unsuitable for Kyrgyzstan.
The provisional government received increased attention from the international community in general. During his visit to Bishkek, US Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Michael McFaul, promised a $15 million transfer to Kyrgyzstan as prepaid rent for the US Transit Center at Manas (www.24.kg, May 4). McFaul acknowledged the positive change inside Kyrgyzstan. If positive changes indeed prevail in Kyrgyzstan, they will largely be due to the provisional government’s political will and international support for these efforts.