Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Foreign Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic Chingiz Aidarbekov, Bishkek, February 4, 2019
Ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to our hosts for their hospitality and arrangements, especially for the intensive and important conversation with President of the Kyrgyz Republic Sooronbay Jeenbekov.
During today’s meaningful talks with my colleague, Foreign Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic Chingiz Aidarbekov, we discussed specific matters in the company of our respective delegations. We reaffirmed the commitment of our countries to strengthening allied relations and strategic partnership in all areas and expanding trade, economic and investment cooperation both bilaterally and within the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the CIS.
We reaffirmed our commitments within the CSTO as Bishkek prepares to host the summit and foreign ministers’ meeting of this organisation this year. We received information on our Kyrgyz friends’ preparations for these major events.
We also discussed humanitarian contacts that are very relevant for both people in Russia and Kyrgyzstan. We could see this with our own eyes when I was invited to speak to students from the Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University.
We spoke about the importance of the Russian language in promoting our ties within a single educational space in the interests of labour migrants and for many other purposes.
We noted that Chinghiz Aitmatov, whose 90th birthday we celebrated last year, made a major contribution to promoting relations between our two countries and friendship. In December 2018, President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbay Jeenbekov and Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin unveiled a monument to this great son of the Kyrgyz people.
We expect positive outcomes from the upcoming meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission for Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technical and Humanitarian Cooperation on March 1. We outlined items that will be on the agenda of that meeting in order to facilitate the adoption of mutually acceptable decisions as part of Vladimir Putin’s visit, scheduled to take place in the spring of 2019.
We also discussed at length military-technical cooperation, as well as international cooperation.
Our interests converge on many matters, and we share many positions within the UN, OSCE, CSTO, CIS, EAEU and the SCO. Today, we reviewed objectives related to ensuring mutual support for our respective initiatives within these bodies, as well as practical steps to promote our cooperation at the level of ambassadors and permanent representatives in various international structures.
We paid special attention to Central Asia, agreeing to further work together for better security in this essential region and to combine our efforts in countering terrorism, drug trafficking and other forms of crime.
All in all, I believe that we have made substantial progress on all these matters in the interests of our countries and their people.
Let me once again thank you for arranging this visit. I hope that its outcome will help strengthen Russia-Kyrgyztan cooperation.
Question (addressed to both ministers): Did you talk about Afghanistan in light of the possible withdrawal of foreign troops next year? Did you discuss the idea of a second Russian military base in Kyrgyzstan?
Sergey Lavrov: Concerning your second question, I can tell you that we did not discuss that subject. I received the same question after I delivered my remarks at the Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University. We have not received any official initiatives regarding this.
As for Afghanistan, when we speak about Central Asia, we primarily have in mind the threats coming from that country. These are the threats of terrorism, drug trafficking and overall instability that is being fuelled by the continued infiltration of terrorists from Syria, Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries. The terrorists prefer Afghanistan’s northern regions located in direct proximity to the borders of our Central Asian partners. This certainly means we must give priority attention to security matters, including the operation of the joint Russian military base in Kyrgyzstan. We discussed this in detail today. We also considered ways to strengthen this base as the CSTO stronghold against the threats facing Central Asian countries. We appreciate the attention which President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbay Jeenbekov paid today to the importance of dealing with these issues as soon as possible.
Speaking about Afghanistan in broader terms, we must not only think about security but also about a political settlement. You know that Russia has been actively advocating an intra-Afghan dialogue involving both the government and the Taliban, which are part of Afghan society; there is no denying this.
We have also reaffirmed the importance of the so-called Moscow format, where five Central Asian states – Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Iran – are represented. The United States is regularly invited to participate, but it prefers narrower formats. The Moscow format is unique because it brings together all countries that can influence different political forces in Afghanistan in one way or another. Afghanistan is taking part in the Moscow format, of course. For the first time ever, Taliban representatives attended the autumn meeting alongside delegates from the Afghanistan High Peace Council. It is common knowledge that a dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban cannot be avoided. However, some countries, for example, the United States, have been trying to seize control of this dialogue so as to hold it behind closed doors. US representatives have met with the Taliban in Qatar. By doing this, our American partners are keeping the regional countries, which care about Afghanistan’s future, in the dark about their plans. Regrettably, the United States has done this not only in Afghanistan. This unilateral and egoistical approach to foreign policy initiatives is typical of the current foreign policy officials in the US administration.
Question (addressed to Chingiz Aidarbekov): You have made a number of foreign visits since you became Foreign Minister. Your first visit was to Russia. Then you went to Kazakhstan and held talks in Beijing. It looks like your foreign policy priorities are set. We have an active dialogue with Russia, which is borne out by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit and President Vladimir Putin’s planned visit to Kyrgyzstan. At the same time, anti-Chinese rallies took place last December and January. How can such protests influence cooperation between Kyrgyzstan and China?
Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Chingiz Aidarbekov): I will add a few words. This is not a unique case where someone, generally from the outside, tries to make friends with Central Asia not for the sake of friendship but to undermine relations of Central Asian states with other foreign partners. This is done as regards not only the People’s Republic of China but also the Russian Federation.
We are sure that our Central Asian partners that are developing relations with many foreign players in the 5+1 format can differentiate between those who are truly interested in carrying out mutually beneficial projects and those who use such formats solely to undercut the influence of traditional allies of Central Asian states, including the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation.
Question (for both ministers): Kyrgyzstan is taking part in several major energy projects, including the aforementioned joint project with Dushanbe CASA-1000, and the revival of the Soviet project of a common energy grid in Central Asia. Will Russia support these projects with consulting and funding? Has the Kyrgyz Government made any requests in this regard?
Sergey Lavrov: I know that in the early stages of this project and the TAPI project that is also fairly interesting in terms of energy, our companies said they were willing to join if the relevant countries – four in each case – were interested in this. As far as I know, this was as far as it went. However, whenever large and interesting business projects are proposed, our companies are ready to see what terms are offered for potential cooperation.
Question: Recently, there have been a lot of reports in the media about Russia signing and carrying out major trade, economic and other projects worth billions of dollars with Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Is Russia planning to implement large- scale investment projects in Kyrgyzstan?
Sergey Lavrov: There is no need to discuss this in terms of reporting in the media because there is open access to all information on our projects with Central Asian countries.
Today, we have discussed the projects that are already being successfully carried out by the Russian Federation and the Kyrgyz Republic. In particular, the Russian-Kyrgyz Development Fund has been established, which has already invested over $300 million in more than 1,600 projects, primarily, small and medium-sized companies, which is creating a very stable foundation for developing the corresponding production facilities. Alongside this, we have projects aimed at investing (also somewhere on the order of $200 million) in Kyrgyzstan’s border infrastructure as part of its membership in the EAEU and adaptation to the union's terms.
More broadly, you know the projects that have already been carried out, such as the Sangtuda 1 Hydroelectric Power Plant. The Kyrgyz leaders are willing to return to the Verkhne-Narynsky cascade of hydroelectric power plants project under the new terms. Experts are reviewing the corresponding address describing how to develop energy cooperation under the new terms, to reiterate, including hydroelectric energy, which is very promising for your country. Today we agreed that our departments will work on this. The main goal is to find mutually acceptable approaches to such projects. I think the motivation is there, and so the chances of reaching an agreement are fairly high.