Kyrgyz president warns of "new Afghanistan" in Central Asia

By bne IntelliNews December 12, 2012

bne -

Pressing for Western support for his wobbling administration, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev warned on December 11 that a "new Afghanistan" will arise in Central Asia if Kyrgyzstan fails to build a parliamentary democracy.

Speaking at a joint press conference in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Atambaev, who is facing mounting opposition to his coalition government just four months after taking office, said democracy desperately needs to be developed in Central Asia, according to Kabar.

"We know what the strategic importance of this region is, you only have to look at the neighbouring countries," Merkel told reporters. The EU heavyweight insisted that Europe must not focus solely on "countries that have raw materials or are just strategically important as withdrawal routes from Afghanistan".

Kyrgyzstan lacks the oil and gas resources that have made Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan the main focus in the region for the West, Russia and China. Meanwhile, rising resource nationalism has destabilized the investment climate for the few international miners working in the country. The opposition formalized demands that the investment agreement with Canada-listed Centerra Gold on Kyrgyzstan's largest gold mine Kumtor be torn up when it announced it was forming a united front last week.

That move to bring together the country's fragmented opposition in a bid to up the pressure on Atambaev threatens to extend Kyrgyzstan's high level of political instability over the last decade. The 2005 "Tulip Revolution" to depose Kyrgyzstan's first president, Askar Akayev, with Kurmanbek Bakiyev was followed by a second uprising in April 2010. Serious ethnic clashes exploded two months later, and tension between ethnic groups, especially in the south of the country, remain high.

Although Atambaev's election was the first peaceful transfer of power in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan, concern about the stability of the governing coalition.

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