Kyrgyz President Backs Trans-Asia Railway Project

Posted May 23rd, 2012 at 3:05 pm (UTC-5)
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Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev says his government is strongly supporting a project to build a trans-Asia railway to connect his country with China and Uzbekistan.

The more than $2-billion rail line is planned to run from Kashgar in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region to Andijon in Uzbekistan, where it would link to the Uzbek rail network.

In an interview Wednesday with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Kyrgyz Service, President Atambaev said his country should get maximum benefit from neighboring China.

“[The project] will give a great push for the Kyrgyz economy. On the other hand, we are demanding that this railroad should connect all railroads in Kyrgyzstan; it's our condition. The railroad will go through the Naryn and Osh regions, and that's how the northern Naryn region will be connected to the main railroad. North and south will be connected through this railroad. The whole Kyrgyzstan will be connected. This winter was very harsh and the south was cut off from the north for several weeks. And this railroad will unite far parts of Kyrgyzstan with each other, and it will help to unite our regions together.”

Mr. Atambaev also vowed to continue efforts to bring interethnic peace in the country's south, where clashes between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in June 2010 killed about 450 people and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses.

“There is a deep confrontation or misunderstanding and lots of issues between Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities in the south — and no integration. And we see only one decision of this — somebody has to make a political step to stop this division into Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities, and to make all of them citizens of Kyrgyzstan and unite them through this. Only then we can stop new tragedies in the future in this region. Now we see nationalism on both Kyrgyz and Uzbek sides.”

On the fate of a U.S.-run military air transit center at Manas airport near Bishkek after 2014, when most NATO troops are set to be withdrawn from Afghanistan, the president said U.S. operations will continue, using a civilian airport.

“Now [the United States] has some troops in the Manas Transit Center, and it's a civil airport — Kyrgyzstan's main airport — and there shouldn't be any military troops [there] after 2014. There is no other place like this — Istanbul, Frankfurt, or Moscow — if you go [to] any civil airport, you will not find any military troops located there. But when it comes to transporting goods, logistics, we will continue doing that. It's not necessary to keep troops in Manas Transit Center for carrying goods, logistics to Afghanistan.”

Mr. Atambaev has repeatedly said he will not extend the lease of the Manas base used by U.S. troops when the current agreement expires in 2014.

With Bishkek located about 90 minutes by cargo jet from Kabul, Afghanistan, Kyrygyzstan's capital hosts the Manas military air base, which has been the main point of entry and exit for NATO troops from Afghanistan.