Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Askar Aytmatov has welcomed the EU's readiness to help solve regional problems in Central Asia during a meeting in Bishkek with EU Commissioner Chris Patten. The two also discussed the EU's expansion, Kyrgyz-EU cooperation, terrorism, the illicit drugs trade, Afghan reconstruction, people trafficking and regional cooperation. The following is the text of report by KyrgzInfo news agency.
Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Askar Aytmatov met EU Commissioner for External Relations Christopher Patten at the ministry today. A wide range of issues relating to bilateral relations were discussed during the talks.
In the first instance, the sides pledged to further continue to strengthen and expand ties between Kyrgyzstan and the EU.
EU office opened in Bishkek
Foreign Minister Aytmatov hailed the official opening of the EU representative office in Bishkek, in accordance with a signed agreement between the Kyrgyz government [and the EU]. Aytmatov expressed the hope that the EU office would be an efficient tool for strengthening bilateral cooperation.
The sides also attached great importance to such issues as fighting terrorism, the illicit drugs trade; the post-war reconstruction of Afghanistan, trafficking in people, regional cooperation, etc. The two focused on the forthcoming EU expansion. Minister Aytmatov said upon his arrival from Poland that he had perceived the determination of the Polish people in joining the EU.
The Kyrgyz foreign minister noted that the EU's expansion would bring along new prospects for cooperation, and that the EU would now be closer to our country in geographical terms.
Aytmatov hailed projects implemented by TACIS [the European Community programme], the realization of which had largely contributed to the country's economic and democratic development. The minister also stressed Kyrgyzstan's aspiration to expand coordination in all spheres of cooperation, political dialogue in particular.
EU-Central Asia dialogue
As for regional cooperation, Patten expressed his interest in establishing a dialogue between the EU and the Central Asian countries.
There are a number of practical issues on the Central Asian agenda, where the EU could provide its assistance [to resolve them]. These are the illicit drug trade, water resources, security, etc.
Aytmatov hailed the EU's readiness to help solve regional problems. The Kyrgyz foreign minister said that the political will of all the Central Asian countries was necessary in order to establish efficient regional cooperation. Regional problems can only be resolved on a mutually acceptable basis.
Japan-Central Asia dialogue
Aytmatov said that the Japanese government has already shown interest in expanding the Japan-CACO [Central Asian Cooperation Organization, formerly the Central Asian Economic Community - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan] dialogue, a move which was welcomed by all the Central Asian countries.
Speaking about security, the EU commissioner said that currently there was no eminent danger, and that should be considered a great achievement. However, developing a civil society is an important aspect of security, as well as reducing the population's exposure to the illicit drug trade, etc.
Summing up the meeting, Aytmatov expressed satisfaction with the meeting and said Patten's visit would pave the way for an expansion of the partnership between Kyrgyzstan and the EU and promote its sustainable development.
KyrgyzInfo, March 18, 2004