Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan agree to resolve border crisis

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BISHKEK (TCA) — Kyrgyzstan Prime Minister Sapar Isakov late on October 18 held talks with Kazakhstan Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev in Astana to discuss the ongoing crisis on the Kyrgyz-Kazakh border, where vehicles and people have been stuck in long lines after Kazakhstan tightened customs checks from October 10.

Following the talks, the parties agreed to ensure a priority order of crossing the Kazakh-Kyrgyz border for individuals with personal luggage, regular passenger vehicles, cars, and empty cargo vehicles starting from October 19, the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan said in a statement after the talks.

Isakov’s visit to Astana came as Kyrgyzstan sent a communique to the World Trade Organization complaining of Kazakhstan’s tough treatment of Kyrgyz trucks and citizens at border crossings.

Kyrgyzstan did not launch a full-scale trade dispute with the global trade agency, but notified its dispute settlement body about what Bishkek said were nine different trade rule violations by Astana, Reuters reported.

The Kyrgyz statement said Kazakh border guards are singling out Kyrgyz cargoes for inspections, and the border restrictions have nearly halved the flow of trade between the countries.

The stepped-up Kazakh border checks came amid controversy after outgoing Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev accused Kazakhstan of interfering in the campaign for Kyrgyzstan’s October 15 presidential election and criticized Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev over his long rule, RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service reported.

On October 7, Atambayev accused Kazakh authorities of “meddling in Kyrgyzstan’s internal affairs” and of openly supporting Omurbek Babanov, the chief rival of Atambayev’s favored successor, Sooronbai Jeenbekov — who ended up winning the election.

The accusations came after Nazarbayev met with Babanov on September 19.

Atambayev said on October 18 that he “probably” went too far when he criticized Nazarbayev, an authoritarian leader who has been in power in the larger, more wealthy country since before the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

“Probably, I gave way to emotions and did the wrong thing in criticizing the Kazakh president,” Atambayev said, instead targeting what he suggested were self-interested Kazakh “oligarchs” bent on preserving their wealth and influence after Nazarbayev, 77, dies or hands over power.

“Kazakhstan’s president trusts those who are around him. And those surrounding him are oligarchs. I think he is like me, he easily trusts people,” Atambayev said.

“Meanwhile, the oligarchs are thinking about only one thing: what they would do after Nazarbayev, how they would save their cash and where they would hide it.”

Sergey Kwan

TCA