Bishkek in talks to unblock south Kyrgyzstan

By bne IntelliNews June 4, 2013

bne -

Kyrgyz government officials are holding talks with opposition leaders in the southern Jalal-Abad region in an attempt to bring several days of protests and the blockade of the country's main highway to an end.

Government efforts to persuade the protest organisers to unblock the Bishkek-Osh highway have so far been unsuccessful. Deputy Interior Minister Kursan Asanov is holding a third round of talks early on June 4.

According to local press reports, several hundred residents blocked the road near the village of Barpy, setting up yurts on the road and scattering gravel to prevent cars from passing. Reports on June 3 said that around 1,000 cars were gridlocked on the road between Kyrgyzstan's capital and second city, with trucks full of fruit, vegetables and other perishable goods also held up.

State news agency Kabar reported that more than 100 fuel tankers are also stuck on the highway on their way to the agricultural south of the country. The head of the Association of Oil Traders of Kyrgyzstan, Zhumakadyr Akeneyev, told the news agency that around KGS12,000 ($250) worth of fuel was evaporating from each truck every day they stood idle, potentially leading to fuel shortages in the south.

The protests started on May 31 in solidarity with protesters at the Kumtor gold mine during the last week of May. However, while the situation around Kumtor has now returned to normal, protests in Jalal-Abad have escalated.

In addition to supporting the Kumtor protestors, Jalal-Abad based supporters of the opposition Ata-Zhurt party have rallied in the town centre to demand the release of party leaders Kamchibek Tashiev, Talant Manytov and Sadyr Zhaparov, who are serving short prison terms for attempting to overthrow the government. Their supporters broke into the administrative offices in the southern town of Jalal-Abad, and installed their own governor - Meder Usenov - on May 31. Mass protests in Jalal-Abad and on the Bishkek-Osh road followed for the last three days.

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