Interview With BBC World Service Radio
BBC World Service: I should tell you, I don’t know if you know, I just spoke to the ICG guy who paid great compliments to your knowledge of the region and said in his view, he’s in Bishkek, there is a need for outside intervention and he’s aware of the ironies of the human rights community asking for that. But he’s saying that the situation is so bad outside forces of some sort, or mediators of some sort need to go in. What would you say to that?
Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) Krol: Well, we, the United States government, are closely monitoring the security situation in Kyrgyzstan, and particularly in the south, and have been of course in close contact with our partners in the region as well as in international organizations like the UN and the OSCE. And I know that the authorities of Kyrgyzstan have actually asked the OSCE, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe for police monitors for deployment in Kyrgyzstan and I believe there is an OSCE assessment mission in Kyrgyzstan in fact today which will be reporting back to Vienna. We hope that through the OSCE that there can be action undertaken on this request.
BBC World Service: I think the suggestion is there will be not just a few police monitors, but some sort of force to try and help intervene and to keep the peace between the two ethnic communities. Do you think that’s a reasonable suggestion?
DAS Krol: We’re monitoring the situation as I said, and also in consultation with our partners on the security situation on that.
BBC World Service: But America has no plans to send any of its own forces, any peacekeepers, any military or security personnel in?
DAS Krol: As I said, we’re monitoring it and we’re in consultation with our partners and international organizations on this particular sensitive question.
BBC World Service: Have the Russians sent anyone in?
DAS Krol: I think you’d have to ask the Russians about that.
BBC World Service: Really? I mean is it not clear? Because I’ve been trying to find out and it does seem extremely opaque as to whether they have or not. You don’t know?
DAS Krol: Like I said, I don’t speak on behalf of the Russian Federation, so therefore I would not want to characterize what they may have there or not. As you know, there is a Russian air base there and they have forces there as well. Now if there’s anything else, I’m not aware of it.
BBC World Service: What about the referendum? We just heard from the ICG spokesman saying he just thinks it’s impossible to hold one in the current conditions. What do you think?
DAS Krol: The referendum is a sovereign decision of the Kyrgyz authorities to make, and they appear to have made that decision to go forward with it, and we hope that they will conduct it in a way that will be shown that it is legitimate and that the results of it can be acceptable. As I note, there are a number of observers that are on the ground there including from the organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, a lot of non-governmental organizations that are working with the Kyrgyz authorities on trying to have as robust an observation of this voting as possible.
But as I said, and this was our position, that it is a sovereign decision of the Kyrgyz authorities to make.
BBC World Service: So you neither support nor oppose sort of thing.
DAS Krol: I said what I said.
BBC World Service: And the OSCE observers, just to sort of nail that down, because we just heard that there aren’t any going, but you think that there some going?
DAS Krol: Well, there are what were called long term observers of the OSCE that were there in the country and they have remained there and are participating in the observation. I think they are about 30 or so. There had been some earlier plans to have short term observers, but they have not been sent.
BBC World Service: Can I ask you, what is the U.S. position on recognition of the government in Kyrgyzstan? Do you recognize the government?
DAS Krol: The position of the United States government is that we recognize states and not governments. And we work with the governments that we understand are in power. So we work with this provisional government as the government that is in power, and we deal with it on a regular basis.
BBC World Service: So that’s in place and you’re working with the government. And just what are you expecting then? You’re sending a lot of money in, competing perhaps with Moscow in that respect. How do you see the next few months playing out in terms of U.S. activity in Kyrgyzstan?
DAS Krol: You mentioned competing with Russia. We are not competing with Russia. In fact I think that as was mentioned by President Obama, my President, and the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev yesterday, in fact that we are coordinating our assistance efforts to Kyrgyzstan, certainly sharing information, and we are in constant contact with the Russians on this particular, as we are with other partners, including the European Union. So therefore we all are, as it were, on the same page of wanting to provide the appropriate assistance to the people of Kyrgyzstan. And we have in train already about $30 million of immediate humanitarian assistance. There have already been flights of various foodstuffs and medical supplies and the like that have already taken place, and we have more on the way and are working through the United Nations agencies, the International Red Cross, through other NGOs and directly as well, in I think a very well coordinated effort with other international organizations and the community, many of whom have representatives in Bishkek.
BBC World Service: I hope you understand that I feel obliged just to point out that if there’s such excellent coordination with Moscow, it’s a bit odd that you don’t know whether they’ve sent security personnel or not.
DAS Krol: We’re talking about humanitarian assistance, and that’s what I was referring to.
BBC World Service: So there’s no cooperation on the security front then?
DAS Krol: I did say that we are in discussions and in constant contact with our partners including the Russian Federation on all these issues including security issues.
BBC World Service: You see my point. That there seems to be a bit of a contradiction between your not knowing whether --
DAS Krol: I don’t see a contradiction. I think you’re trying to perhaps imply one.
BBC World Service: Not really. I’m surprised you didn’t know whether Russia had sent personnel, and --
DAS Krol: No, I told you to please ask the Russian Federation if they have sent. I’m not aware of any.
BBC World Service: Thank you very much, sir.
DAS Krol: Certainly.