Elmira Ibraimova: Borders оf Kyrgyzstan comply with national interests
On April 11, the Jogorku Kenesh or national parliament of Kyrgyzstan ratified the draft Kyrgyz-Kazakh border treaty signed by the heads of states in Astana in 2001. The state border itself had been drawn along the administrative borders in 1999. The parliament of Kazakhstan had ratified the document in question in 2003.
Communists and Social Democrats, parties of the minority in the Jogorku Kenesh, voted "nay" - all too no avail because pro-president Ak Jol faction vastly outnumbering them voted "aye".
That same day the Kyrgyz parliament recognized four resorts on Lake Issyk-Kul shores as property of Kazakhstan. Fifty-nine lawmakers voted "aye", seventeen "nay".
Elated by how things worked out with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan counts on similar treatment too. It recently forwarded to the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry a draft agreement recognizing some Issyk-Kul resorts as Uzbek property.
Here is an interview with Al Jol faction leader Elmira Ibraimova.
Why would Ak Jol vote for ratification of the Kyrgyz-Kazakh border treaty?
- Whatever state wants to be a genuine state, it needs its territory clearly defined. Its state borders should be defined, in other words. As for Kyrgyzstan, the border with China is the only one that is clearly defined. Where the state border with Kazakhstan is concerned, its was defined but the treaty had to be ratified yet.
As a matter of fact, the Jogorku Kenesh had this issue on the agenda more than once already, but political considerations compelled it to table the issue the issue every time. The state cannot live without borders anymore. When the issue was put on the floor again, our faction took a particularly active part in the debates. Special attention was focused on three parts of the border:
- the one in the Talass region (Kara-Bura district) and the one in the vicinity of Kok-Sai;
- the one in the Ysyk-Ata district, the road to Issyk-Kul near the town of Tokmak (there are Kazakh gas stations there on the 800 meters of the road that is on the territory of Kazakhstan, and our Kyrgyz drivers frequently stop there); and
- the part in Karkyra.
Our faction dispatched a delegation to the Talass region where the territory of Kazakhstan wedges into Kyrgyzstan. There are pastures there, you know, our people use. In fact, all maps show it to be Kazakh land indeed. So, we intend to discuss the matter with the Kazakhs and negotiate the issue: Kyrgyzstan gets this wedge in return for an adequate piece of land that will be turned over to Kazakhstan.
In the Talass region alone, Kyrgyzstan stands to gain 102.5 hectares of land. All in all, Kyrgyzstan is to receive 6,881 hectare and Kazakhstan 4,302 hectares. We will end up with more, and that surely is a major accomplishment of our diplomacy. In a word, we are not giving anything away or selling anything. The issue is being settled in a most satisfactory manner.
But lawmaker Jurayev claims that Kyrgyzstan intends to give up a granite pit and receive some barren lands in return.
- Where this pit is concerned, we consulted specialists. Granite from it is no good for monuments or whatever because of micro-cracks. It is only good for macadam.
In a word, this particular pit does go to Kazakhstan, but we are getting some nice piece of land near Kok-Sai in return.
All maps indicate that Kok-Sai belongs to Kazakhstan, but our State Register managed to parcel some lands there among the Kyrgyzes. It follows that either we ratify the treaty now or Kazakhstan commandeers the lands that actually belong to it and a lot of Kyrgyzes will be disappointed (to put it mildly).
By the way, Kyrgyzstan is also entitled to some land in the Jaiyl district where a Kyrgyz cemetery ended up on the territory of Kazakhstan. Residents of the village of Stepnoye in the meantime have always interred their relatives there. Our diplomats discussed the matter with the Kazakhs and persuaded them to give this land over.
Same with Karkyra, where the land is Kazakh de facto and Kyrgyz de jure. The Kazakhs agreed to part with it. Ak Jol lawmakers visited the village of Santash there and the villagers said they wanted ratification of the treaty as soon as possible. When asked why, they said they were encountering problems with the Kazakhs. "We are driven out with cattle from pastures over there," the locals said. "Do something about it."
"All right," we answered. "Your interests are a priority of course. And yet, we hear too much criticism of late. If we agree to ratify the treaty, will you vote Ak Kol?" - "Sure."
Ak Jol regional coordinators were present at this meeting with the villagers. You could check with them.
These people Ak Jol activists met with... could they be plants? Something like the aksakals or elders instructed in advance what to say to important visitors from the capital?
- No way. This possibility occurred to our lawmakers too. When asked this question, the locals had a hearty laugh... In any case, I'm telling you right here and now that this establishment of the state borders complies with national interests of Kyrgyzstan. I'd say that Tokmak is the only site we encounter problems with.
I got a look at maps myself and wondered how come we couldn't do anything about these 800 meters of the road. I was told that this land was Kazakh indeed, that the Kazakhs had been contacted and offered an adequate piece of land elsewhere. The Kazakhs turned it down. Our International Affairs Committee and plenary meeting of the parliament afterwards instructed the government to initiate new negotiations with Kazakhstan over Kok-Sai and these 800 meters of the road.
But will this order or instruction have any effect? What negotiations are possible when the maps are signed and all?
- Indeed, the negotiations were over as soon as Askar Akayev and Nursultan Nazarbayev put their signatures on the treaty. No negotiations are possible at this point. The matter may be brought up again only when the treaty comes into effect. We cannot initiate any new talks without ratifying it first.
All of these arguments will probably apply to resorts too... Let us get to the Uzbeks then.
- There are more unsolved problems with Uzbekistan than resorts alone. There is what is known as the Sokh enclave. There are border problems as well. All these problems should be handled together, together. It will certainly be wrong to concentrate on the resorts alone and deal only with them. Ak Jol is convinced that the matter of the resorts should be tackled only when all border problems have been already solved.
Does it make the matter of the resorts a property issue, not something as serious as a border problem? There is the impression in the country that Kyrgyzstan is about to end up with some new Uzbek enclaves now.
- It's a wrong assumption. Same thing with the Kazakh resorts that are not enclaves at all because the resorts stand on Kyrgyz land. And Kyrgyz land, by the way, is not to be turned over to any foreign state no matter what. There is the Land Code, after all, whose Article 8 plainly states that land may only be leased to a foreign state on the basis of a special treaty where everything from size to cost and whatever else is specified.
Ratifying the agreement on resorts, the Jogorku Kenesh instructed the government to draw a treaty on the basis of Article 8 of the Land Code and submit it for parliamentary ratification.
These issues being quite sensitive, was tackling them difficult?
- No problems here. The land the resorts are located on belongs to Kyrgyzstan. The matter only comes down to the cost of the objects.
Yes, we are shouldering the responsibility but that's what the Jogorku Kenesh is elected for in the first place. For promotion of national interests. Where the resorts are concerned, the parliament pondered all decisions even those dating back into the Soviet days. All documents list the resorts in question as property of Kazakhstan.
The Jogorku Kenesh instructed the government to draw a lease agreement. Since the previous agreement was never ratified, management of the resorts never paid the rent these last fifteen years. In order to make them pay for the whole period now, the matter will have to be discussed at the governmental level.
Solution to all these problems is long overdue. It's wrong to table the matter just because nobody wants the responsibility. All previous parliaments ducked the issue precisely because they didn't want the responsibility. Not so this Jogorku Kenesh that summoned the courage and set up a special parliamentary panel.
In 1992, the Supreme Council passed a resolution that stated that the R&R objects should be turned over to Kyrgyzstan. The Cabinet never implemented the resolution, and neither did the State Property Fund.
What about the territory in Uzengi-Kuush that is to be turned over too?
- By and large, the Kyrgyz-Chinese border agreement benefits Kyrgyzstan more than it does China. I worked at the UN, you know. I know that the usual practice in dealing with border issues is dividing territory fifty-fifty. Where Uzengi-Kuush is concerned, however, the decision was seventy-thirty in favor of Kyrgyzstan. It follows that the parliament that ratified this particular treaty is to be complimented and not condemned.
Whether or not political parties should be subsidized by the state is the talk of the day. What is your opinion?
- I do not think that they should, and I said so at the roundtable conference that discussed the law on political parties. The way I see it, this sponsorship does not allow for equality of political parties.
I'm firmly convinced therefore that the law on political parties should include no clause on state subsidies. My colleagues who see things differently, however, refer to the international experience and practice.
The kurultai [congress] that took place not long ago put forth certain demands, one of the a demand to President Kurmanbek Bakiyev not to sign the agreements we've already discussed in this interview...
- We passed what had to be passed and ratified what had to be ratified. All documents were forwarded to the president for signing. As for the future of the documents, I do not think that it is up to Bakiyev to decide. I'm firmly convinced that the documents benefit the people of Kyrgyzstan and its interests.
What does Ak Jol think of the idea of the government to compile some sort of a roster of strategic objects whose future is only to be decided by the government or Security Council? (Not by the Jogorku Kenesh, that is.)
- This law on strategic objects was drawn by the government indeed. It only defines strategic objects, nothing more. What is to make the strategic list is to be decided by the government and initiated by the Security Council.
Does it mean that Ak Jol will second the initiative?
- It's something for a plenary meeting. If you want my opinion though, this initiative is necessary from the standpoint of national security. Unfortunately, our society is usually distrustful of what draft laws and decisions the state adopts and makes.
But it is surely wrong to have one of the branches of the government missing when matters of national magnitude are handled, right?
- The Jogorku Kenesh forms the government. It follows that the government will answer to the Jogorku Kenesh in any event. In other words, it is wrong to assume that the parliament is going to be absent from the process of decision-making. Particularly when the fate of so serious a sector as energy production is concerned.
All objects of the energy production sector are subject to the law the Jogorku Kenesh adopted in 1998.
There is the widespread opinion that privatization in this particular sphere will end with people getting some vouchers not really worth the paper they are printed on and certain men (no need to give their names here) owing the objects as such...
- I think the parliament will prevent it from happening.