ArmInfo. ''The level of cultural exchange and humanitarian cooperation, as well as the level of economic and trade relations, leaves much to be desired. In my opinion, one should start with small steps in this direction in order to drive from the dead-lock. " Interview of the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kyrgyz Republic to the Republic of Armenia Bolot Otunbayev to the Director General of the ArmInfo Agency, Emannuil Mkrtchyan.
Bolot Isakovich, first of all, let me congratulate you on your appointment to the position of Ambassador of the Kyrgyz Republic in Armenia on June 11 of this year and to ask the first traditional question: How do you assess the interstate relations between the Kyrgyz Republic and the Republic of Armenia from the point of view of existing legal agreement framework between the countries and possibilities of expanding on its basis the whole spectrum of interstate contacts?
Thank you for your congratulations, as you noted on June 11 of this year President of the Kyrgyz Republic S. Jeenbekov issued a decree on my appointment as ambassador to Armenia. On November 3 of this year Presentation of Credentials to President of Armenia A. Sarkissian will be held. In connection with the appointment, my country pins hopes on the intensification of Kyrgyz-Armenian bilateral relations. In this regard, I want to express my confidence that bilateral cooperation, which unfortunately, does not correspond to the existing potential of two friendly states that have much in common in their development, in the same historical period of time embarking on the path of parliamentary democracy, will continue to expand and deepen for the benefit of the two nations.
Touching upon the legal framework, it should be noted that following the meeting of the President of Kyrgyzstan S. Jeenbekov with the Prime Minister of Armenia N.Pashinyan in Sochi on May 14, 2018, in the framework of participation in the EEU Summit, it was decided to conduct an inventory of legal framework between the Kyrgyz Republic and the Republic of Armenia. International lawyers of the two states are already working towards this goal and discuss specific dates for the inventory. Nevertheless, the legal framework base between Kyrgyzstan and Armenia created over the years of diplomatic relations, the 25th anniversary of the establishment of which we celebrate this year, has 25 treaties and agreements, as well as 3 protocols covering various areas of bilateral cooperation. However, given that many agreements were documents of "the first wave", they are mostly general in nature and need to be specified, the bilateral agenda raises the question of their substantive content, creating an efficient mechanism for monitoring their implementation.
Do you think that the level of cooperation between the two countries both of which are members of the CIS and the EEU, is sufficient at international platforms in terms of intergovernmental consultations and developing a common approach to international global issues?
I can note that a certain level of interaction and contacts has been established between Kyrgyzstan and Armenia on topical issues of cooperation in the framework of such a large international organization in the post-Soviet space as the Commonwealth of Independent States. Moreover, at the same time, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia are full-fledged member states of the Eurasian Economic Union, a union with a deep form of economic integration, and I can also assure that in this organization there is a dynamic in Kyrgyz-Armenian cooperation on a range of issues of Eurasian integration and international agenda.
One of the undoubted advantages for the two countries was the improvement of conditions for citizens to stay on the Union's labor market, since membership in the EAEU envisages creating favorable conditions for employees, a simplified procedure for employment, and improving social conditions. Meanwhile, in my opinion, the process of adaptation of Kyrgyzstan and Armeniato the conditions of the EAEU remains difficult. It is no secret that the countries still face barriers in ensuring the freedom of movement of goods in the internal market of the Union. It should be noted that these problematic issues are in the field of view of the supranational institution of the Union - the Eurasian Economic Commission and are constantly discussed at various levels of the EAEU management bodies. I am sure that the integration processes on Eurasian territory will create serious prerequisites for the development of the economy of both Kyrgyzstan and our strategic allies and partners, and the existing problems will be solved taking into account the national and common interests of the Union.
What is the official position of Bishkek on the issue of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement considering close relations the Kyrgyz Republic has with Azerbaijan and Turkey, which in their policies mainly adhere to the international principle of inviolability of borders and in fact ignore the other core principle of the international law, the nation's right to self-determination us one of the basic principles of the post-war international system of collective security?
Kyrgyzstan strictly adheres to the position of exclusively peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict based on the interrelated principles of non-use of force or threat of force, territorial integrity of the state, equal rights and people's right to self-determination. I want to emphasize that it was in Bishkek where in May 1994 a Protocol on Ceasefire was signed which has been in force up to this day. That is why, basing on the historical experience of signing the Bishkek Protocol on May 3 1994, the Kyrgyz Republic has always and continues to stand for the development of constructive proposals for finding settlement options and is always ready to provide its political assistance in this issue.
How do you assess the potential of trade-economic cooperation between Armenia and Kyrgyzstan considering the current rather low indicators? According to the Armenian statistics the trade turnover between the two countries in January-August totaled only 555.6 thousand USD with a 14.4% year-over- year growth. At the same time export of Armenian goods to Kyrgyzstan totaled 394.6 thousand USD (18.3% y-o-y decline), and import of Kyrgyz products to Armenia-161 thousand USD. At the same time import to Armenia grew significantly-53.7-fold. What is the reason for that? Do you believe that due to our countries' membership in the EAEU the opportunities for mutual trade may increase significantly?
Considering that integration issues are currently very topical, I would like to note that the conditions for the participation of the Kyrgyz and Armenian sides in the EAEU as a whole are similar. Joining the Union, the countries had the desire to fully use the economic benefits and advantages of 180 million common economic market of the Union. Perhaps this is one of the explanations for the "improvement" of trade between the countries. The common market of the EAEU has clearly shown which import positions are more necessary today, and which exports can be avoided at the moment. This is what we see in the example of Armenia, exports decreased, and imports from Kyrgyzstan, on the contrary, increased, which for our country, which joined the EAEU after Armenia, was one of the advantages of participating in this integration union. One of the undoubted advantages of integration that countries have enjoyed is also economic policy measures that are important for any state - ensuring the free movement of goods, services, capital, and the possibility of unhindered access of goods to the markets of the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union. For example, for Kyrgyzstan it is, first of all, the products of the agro-industrial complex, the textile-garment industry and the processing industry. Therefore, I believe due to our countries' membership to the EAEU, the opportunities of mutual trade can increase significantly.
The main obstacle to the strengthening of trade and economic cooperation is lack of efficient logistics channels. In your opinion, what conditions are needed to mitigate these obstacles to reduce transport costs? Don't you think that the lack of contacts between businessmen of the two countries is also an obstacle? And can the successful implementation of the Chinese strategy ''One Belt - One Road'' be the solution to this problem?
In your question you touched upon the cornerstone of trade and economic cooperation - the problems of logistics and transport corridors. As we all know, the cheapest transport is sea, taking into account the geographical features of our countries, this option is excluded. Today, for one twenty-ton truck to deliver goods from Bishkek to Yerevan, or vice versa, an entrepreneur must pay from 7 to 8 thousand US dollars. Air freight is even more expensive. There remains only one option - freight transportation by rail. In this regard, there is a need for the construction of new and reconstruction of existing railways. And in this light, the Chinese strategy ''One Belt - One Road'' in the sense of creating a ''new silk road'' can serve its good service. The construction of new Eurasian railways in the framework of the "economic policy of the new Silk Road" and the modernization of the old ones in the post-Soviet space will undoubtedly help to strengthen the transport positions of the EAEU.
Do you think that the level of cultural exchange and humanitarian cooperation between our countries is very far from desired level? What steps need to drive this issue from the dead-lock?
Yes, I agree, the level of cultural exchange and humanitarian cooperation, as well as the level of economic and trade relations leaves much to be desired. In my opinion, one should start with small steps in this direction in order to get things moving. In this context, it is very important, in my opinion, to strengthen ties between the scientific and educational centers of the two countries. In particular, the exchange of experience between the National Academies of Sciences, universities, institutes, research organizations, etc. The role of cultural ties is very significant in this regard. As you know, this year is the jubilee year of the 90th anniversary of the eminent Kyrgyz and Soviet writer and thinker C. Aitmatov. Among the commemorative events holding the revived Issyk-Kul Forum in early October of this year should be noted. By the way, Armenian writers and playwrights had also chance to take part in it. As you can see, the work of our well-known prose writer contributes to the strengthening of cultural exchange between our countries. Taking this opportunity, I would like to congratulate you on your successful organization of the Summit of Francophonie in Yerevan in October. Our cultural workers have a lot to work together in this area. The fact is that in Kyrgyzstan the positions of the French language are very strong, Kyrgyzstan could be a kind of outpost of the Francophonie in Central Asia. In this sense, Armenia could share its experience with us.
In your opinion, given the entry of our countries into a single economic space, is it not time to strengthen our ties by establishing diplomatic missions, consulates or, at least, the institution of trade attaches in two countries?
A day will come when we will reach this. The issue of opening diplomatic missions in another country is, first of all, the prerogative of the country itself, this process should be accompanied by a whole number of factors, such as the level of relations between countries, the existence of common interests, and perhaps one of the main factors is the financial side of the issue. The maintenance of embassies and consulates is always associated with significant costs for the state. Of course, these costs are ultimately carried out at the expense of taxpayers, who reasonably can and should ask how justified the presence of one or another diplomatic representation is. Unfortunately, today Kyrgyzstan, however, like Armenia, cannot yet state the fact of a high level of welfare and the opening in the near future of their diplomatic missions in Yerevan and Bishkek seem unlikely, therefore the use of Honorary Consuls institutes by the parties can play an important role in enhancing bilateral relations . In any case, I firmly believe that bilateral cooperation between two friendly countries will actively develop for the benefit of our peoples, and I, as the Ambassador of Kyrgyzstan to Armenia, will make every effort for this.