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Security summit to focus on Kyrgyzstan

Security summit to focus on Kyrgyzstan

Dozens of top officials from Western and former Soviet countries will meet Saturday to redress international inaction over the teetering Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan, which has been rocked by months of instability and violence.
The informal summit will bring together diplomats from 56 Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe member states for talks that also will touch upon security in Afghanistan.
Impoverished Kyrgyzstan has returned to relative calm since clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks last month claimed hundreds of lives and reduced swathes of the southern cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad to smoldering ruins. Most of the violence involved majority ethnic Kyrgyz burning and looting Uzbek neighborhoods.
The OSCE summit being held outside Kazakhstan's former capital, Almaty, is expected to consider the option of dispatching international police to the south. That outcome would present a rare opportunity for the organization to define its security role in the region, something it has struggled to do in recent years.
Kyrgyzstan's fate is of acute interest to the United States, which has an air base in the country that acts as a transit point for soldiers and nonmilitary supplies to and from nearby Afghanistan. Russia also has a military base around 30 kilometers (19 miles) outside the capital, Bishkek.
Nonetheless, there have been few international attempts to remedy the fallout of June's ethnic violence, and the bloody uprising in April that led to the overthrow of former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
Russia has resisted calls from Kyrgyz citizens and politicians to send peacekeeping troops unilaterally or as part of a mission under the auspices of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Moscow-led military bloc intended as a counterweight to NATO.
Some analysts see the prospect of a security contingent forged under the umbrella of the OSCE _ which counts the United States, Russia and Kyrgyzstan among its members _ as a compromise solution that will avoid inciting rival strategic claims for influence over the region.
In any event, the size of an international police force is likely to be so small as to have little impact.three i
"The number of police will about 50 to 60 people, so this is just a signal to show that the OSCE is active in this crisis region, but it doesn't mean much," said Michael Laubsch, director of the Bonn-based Eurasian Transition Group.
Another outstanding issue is the need for an international probe into the ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan, which would likely also involve the OSCE. Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva, who came to power after Bakiyev's removal, has expressed openness to the idea, but diplomats say the idea is meeting resistance among senior government officials.
For Kazakhstan, which currently holds the rotating chair of the OSCE, hosting this weekend's summit is a diplomatic coup that its government believes will propel it into the ranks of the respected diplomatic community.
But rights activists have criticized the oil-rich former Soviet nation for failing to address its democratic shortcomings and lack of media freedoms.
Earlier this year, Kazakh lawmakers appointed President Nursultan Nazarbayev "leader of the nation," an honorific title that has effectively made him president for life. That move came as an embarrassment for the OSCE, which touts democracy promotion as once of its main goals.
Even so, Kazakhstan will attempt to capitalize on the momentum of this weekend's meeting by lobbying to hold a full-fledged OSCE summit later this year. Success would mean hosting heads of state in the capital city, Astana, and mark a crowning achievement for Nazarbayev, who has ruled Kazakhstan unchallenged for more than two decades.


Updated : 2021-04-13 12:30 GMT+08:00