Kyrgyzstan president says hopes for EEU were ‘too high’, as dispute with Kazakhstan continues

BISHKEK (TCA) — Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev has leveled indirect but harsh criticism against his Kazakhstan counterpart, the latest salvo in a dispute between the two Central Asian neighbors, RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service reported.

Atambayev said on October 27 that a persistent bottleneck at the Kyrgyz-Kazakh border showed that Bishkek’s hopes for the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), a trade alliance linking several former Soviet republics, “were too high.”

“A union that depends on the whims of one person, no matter how great that person is, cannot be solid,” Atambayev said in an apparent reference to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev — who founded the EEU with the presidents of Russia and Belarus.

Kyrgyzstan has blamed Kazakhstan for long lines and slow movement of travelers, cars, and truck across the border, delays that began when Kazakh authorities stepped up checks at the frontier on October 10.

The bottlenecks began after Atambayev accused Kazakhstan of meddling in the campaign for Kyrgyzstan’s October 15 presidential election and criticized Nazarbayev over his long rule. Kazakh officials have denied any political motive for procedures at the border.

In his latest remarks, Atambayev said that due to problems faced by Kyrgyz exporters on the border with Kazakhstan — which lies between Kyrgyzstan and Russia — he plans to order the government to swiftly outline routes for exporting agricultural output to Uzbekistan and China.

Atambayev made clear he was not criticizing Moscow. He said that “brotherly Russia has been and will be Kyrgyzstan’s reliable partner.”

“I recommend that business people and the government from now on export industrial output to Russia by railway in sealed train cars. Because that is what we agreed on with the Russian president, the respected Vladimir Putin,” he said.

Also on October 27, Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Aiymkan Kulukeeva said Kazakhstan’s move to tighten control for individuals and trucks crossing the Kyrgyz-Kazakh border goes against the EEU’s goals.

On October 24, Kyrgyzstan officially informed Kazakhstan about denouncing an agreement under which it would have received some $100 million in aid from Kazakhstan to bring its infrastructure up to the standards of the EEU.

Kyrgyzstan joined the trade bloc, which also includes Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Armenia, in August 2015. In December 2016, Kazakhstan agreed to grant $100 million in aid to Kyrgyzstan.

Sergey Kwan


Sergey Kwan has worked for The Times of Central Asia as a journalist, translator and editor since its foundation in March 1999. Prior to this, from 1996-1997, he worked as a translator at The Kyrgyzstan Chronicle, and from 1997-1999, as a translator at The Central Asian Post.
Kwan studied at the Bishkek Polytechnic Institute from 1990-1994, before completing his training in print journalism in Denmark.

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