Bishkek ends agreement with Washington, inching its way closer to Beijing and Moscow
The US State Department gave activist Azimjan Askarov an award last week. Analysts say relations with the US have soured since the Central Asian country joined the Eurasian Economic Union in May. Russia and China boost their cooperation in the region.

Bishkek (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Kyrgyz government has unilaterally terminated a cooperation agreement it signed with the United States in 1993 in retaliation for an award given by the US State Department to Kyrgyz activist Azimjan Askarov.

Yesterday, Kyrgyz Prime Minister Temir Sariev signed the government decree terminating the agreement on Cooperation to Facilitate the Provision of Assistance with effect on 20 August 2015.

For some analysts, the decision is part of a wider strategy designed to draw the Central Asian country closer to Russia and China, away from the United States.

Askarov, a journalist and rights activist, was sentenced to life in prison in September 2010 for “inciting ethnic hatred” and complicity in the murder of a law-enforcement officer during clashes in Kyrgyzstan's southern regions of Osh and Jalal-Abad in June of the same year.

At the time, months of clashes left 400 people dead, with more than 2,000 people injured and 400,000 Uzbeks  displaced.

Despite international appeals, including a recent one by Ban Ki-moon, the Kyrgyz government has failed to name the perpetrators of the violence.

For his part, Askarov has always denied any wrongdoing. His son, Sherzod, accepted the award on 16 July on behalf of his father.

In motivating its decision, the State Department described the activist as "a uniting figure in the human rights community, bringing together people of all ethnicities and backgrounds to urge the government of Kyrgyzstan to take effective action towards creating a sustainable peace between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz."

However, Kyrgyzstan’s Foreign Ministry protested Washington’s decision to confer the 2014 Human Rights Defender Award on Askarov. As a result of this, Kyrgyz authorities terminated the agreement at once.

Since the early 1990s, US government has provided Kyrgyzstan with around US$ 1 billion in assistance. According to the most recent full-year figure provided on the USAID website, US government assistance in 2013 alone totalled million. The largest recipient sectors were economic growth, agriculture and energy.

By cancelling the 1993 treaty on July 21, Kyrgyzstan stands to lose the millions of dollars worth of assistance that Washington provides to Kyrgyzstan every year.

These include “programs to address violent extremism, increase economic growth and job creation, improve the educational system, and support the continued democratic development of Kyrgyzstan,” a State Department spokesperson said.

Still, “We will continue to engage with and support the people of Kyrgyzstan," he added.

According to some analysts, cordial relations with Washington have been phased as Kyrgyzstan decided to make its full entrance into the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union in May of this year, after several postponements.

For quite some time, Beijing has had plans to expand in Central Asia, as evidenced by the Silk Road Economic Belt it launched in 2012.

At the recent summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Ufa (Russia), Putin and Xi Jinping also decided to boost cooperation in Russia’s Far East.

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