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Press Conference on Fact-Finding Mission of Executive Secretary of United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, Jan Kubis, to Kyrgyzstan

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

16 April 2010

Just back from Kyrgyzstan on a fact-finding mission as the Secretary-General's special envoy, Jan Kubis, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, briefed correspondents at Headquarters today on the situation in that country, where deadly public demonstrations over the President’s alleged pervasive corruption and nepotism had led to the resignation of the Government and eventual departure of the leader himself.

The trip, he explained, was intended to better understand the tense situation arising out of the displeasure with President Kurmanbek Bakiev’s rule, which threatened to slide the country back from its “high level” of democratic freedoms and human rights standing. In Kyrgyzstan, he met with constitutional authorities, representatives of relevant political groups and the head of the interim government, Roza Otunbayeva, in an effort to defuse the political impasse. He had also spoken twice by telephone with President Bakiev, who had, by the time of Mr. Kubis’ visit, retreated to his home village in the south of the country.

Moreover, he had worked closely with special envoys of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which Kyrgyzstan currently chaired, and the European Union, as well as with delegates from the Collective Security Treaty Organization, to which Kyrgyzstan was also a member. And he met with representatives of neighbouring countries and diplomats accredited to the country.

He recounted Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s recent trip to Central Asia, including to Kyrgyzstan, where the United Nations chief had delivered several direct messages to the authorities, both publicly and privately, speaking “forcefully” about democracy and related issues.

He recalled the events leading to the eventual departure of the president and his own appointment by the Secretary-General to assess the volatile situation, which had had strong potential to develop into even more grave conflict.

Once there, he used his “conflict prevention mandate”, not only to understand the situation and how it developed, but also to press upon both sides -- the opposition and civil society groups on the one hand and the Government on the other -- not to use arms or confrontation but instead to tone down their activities and not allow any excesses. He worked to defuse the constitutional conflict in a manner that would give impetus to the country’s future democratic development, better governance and law and order.

Agreement was eventually reached, whereby the chairman of the provisional government, Roza Isakovna Otunbayeva guaranteed immunity for President Bakiev and his family on the basis of the country’s Constitution, and, in turn, the President decided to voluntarily leave the country. The President also signed his resignation as he boarded the plane that would take him out of the country.

“I would say with the hot stage of the standoff over, my mission has been basically accomplished. Now it is for others, notably the [United Nations] Regional Centre for Conflict Prevention in Central Asia taking over,” he said, adding that the head of that office, Special Representative of the Secretary-General Miroslav Jenca, would be travelling soon to Kyrgyzstan.

In response to a correspondent’s question, Mr. Kubis confirmed that for a period, he was the only conduit for communication between the provisional government and the outgoing President, and certainly the only one from the international community that maintained that kind of contact. He considered that to be his mandate, which required him to engage with all political forces at play in the country that could contribute to calming down the situation and finding a way out of the standoff. Later on, the provisional government started to work with Mr. Bakiev, including through contacts on the Russian side.

To another question, Mr. Kubis said the provisional government had also agreed to review the issue of United States and any other foreign military bases in the country, under President Bakiev, for the sake of transparency, as many in the country had questioned the manner in which Mr. Bakiev had dealt with that issue. He explained that the attitude in the country towards foreign military bases was generally not positive. That was especially true before Mr. Bakiev left the country. But now the provisional government had “promised very clearly” that it would look into the matter and make clear, public and transparent all the arrangements concerning the United States logistical and transportation base.

He added his perception that there was a general public sentiment in Kyrgyzstan that instability in Afghanistan is bad for Central Asia. But the United Nations and its partner organizations were ready to provide the country the necessary assistance that would help it on the path to true democracy.

“One should not forget that Kyrgyzstan is in Central Asia, and Afghanistan is also in that region and any instability in Central Asia means problematic conditions degrading more difficult conditions for the efforts of the international community in Afghanistan,” he said.

Asked if he felt more optimistic about the country’s future in light of recent events, Mr. Kubis said the country still faced a lot of challenges, many of them the result of the country’s social and economic situation. As one of the poorest nations in the world, Kyrgyzstan was a “double-landlocked country” with tremendous transportation problems and electricity problems that were exacerbated during the winter period. Those problems had not “disappeared” with the change of government. On the contrary, the Government would soon be asked to deliver, to do something to improve the social situation of its citizens.

The period ahead was also about solidifying the provisional government’s standing and control, he said, pointing to the tough six-month timetable it had set for itself in which to come up with a new constitution and organize presidential and parliamentary elections. “Now they have a chance to do this. They need international support. The [United Nations] is there and is now looking into the activities and programmes that we have in the country, how to adjust them even to the needs of the current stage,” he said, adding that he was encouraged that the provisional government was fully aware of the need to also look into the matter of how to put the future government more firmly on a constitutional and legal basis.

“This is a major task. They would like to have, not only a new constitution, but new elections, perhaps a new election code; to have free and fair elections monitored by the international community, perhaps with the engagement of international experts to have them on board of the central election commission,” he said. The United Nations and partner organizations like the OSCE were prepared to provide assistance accordingly.

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For information media • not an official record

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