From Sunlen Miller and Luis Martinez
Standing with President Obama during a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House, Russian President Medvedev issued a stark warning about what could happen there if the situation in Kyrgyzstan erodes further.
“The state is not operating as it should, while the country de facto is split into parts and civil unrest and clashes continue on ethnic grounds. Very many people have perished, and the authorities have been incapable of preventing what has happened.”
The April revolt, overthrowing President Kurmanbek Bakiyev has killed 2,000 people, and there are now up to 400,000 refugees in the region.
“All of us share a concern that, under these circumstances, radical elements may rise to power in that country,” Medvedev warned, and added, “In this case, we will have to address the issues that are addressed by us and other regions. I am — I am referring to the goals that we have in Afghanistan.”
The United States, as well as Russia, maintain military facilities in Kyrgyzstan.
The US government runs a Transit Center at Manas, outside the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, that is a key supply point for personnel coming and going from the war in neighboring Afghanistan. Operations at the base have not been affected by the violence in the southern Kyrgyzstan.
The American military presence in Kyrgyzstan has been a sticking point with Russia. There has been speculation that the Kyrgyz government’s negotiations last year to increase the payments the U.S. makes for access to the base were spurred by Russian pressure to restrict U.S. access to the base.
President Obama’s support for the now-ousted government long has angered the opposition.
President Obama today said there has been “excellent coordination” between the US and Russia on the delivery of humanitarian aid to the region, and that they continue to monitor the situation “very carefully.”
“One of the things that we discussed is creating a mechanism so that the international community can ensure that we have a peaceful resolution of the situation there and that any actions that are taken to protect civilians are done so not under the flag of any particular country, but that the international community is stepping in,” Obama said, “And so our teams will be in continuing discussions in the weeks ahead as we monitor the situation as it unfolds.”
In a joint statement following their meetings at the White House today the US and Russia released a joint statement expressing their “common interest” in supporting the people of Kyrgyzstan and restoring democracy.
“We call for the use of nonviolent political methods of resolving the current problems, for a rapid restoration of public order, civic peace and interethnic understanding. We support a coordinated multilateral response to this crisis and support the United Nations and other multilateral organizations, neighbors, and friends of Kyrgyzstan in their efforts to assist in the normalization of the situation in the country, including providing humanitarian aid,” the statement says, “We intend to continue our joint efforts with Kyrgyzstan, to combat threats from narcotics trafficking and terrorism and work together to promote economic development of a stable Kyrgyzstan.”
-Sunlen Miller and Luis Martinez