PRAGUE, June 22, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Local and state officials have been eagerly awaiting Luzhkov's visit for weeks.
The Kyrgyz economy remains weak nearly 15 years after independence, and many Kyrgyz officials are hoping the country's biggest trade partner can provide desperately needed funds for potentially lucrative projects.
The Moscow mayor embodies those hopes.
Billboards in the capital, Bishkek, show Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev and Luzhkov shaking hands next to the words, in Russian and Kyrgyz, "Kyrgyzstan and Russia: Friends Forever."
President Bakiev was banking on that friendship at a joint news conference on June 21.
"Now our basic goal is cooperation in investment, cooperation in the investment sphere, firstly in the social investment sphere and in tourism," Bakiev said.
A billboard in the Kyrgyz capital (RFE/RL)
Luzhkov and the Russian delegation were only in the Kyrgyz capital for a few hours before heading to the mountain resort of Issyk-Kul. Kyrgyzstan is hoping that Russia will invest at least $150 million in that scenic area -- whose most frequent foreign guests are Kazakhs and Russians. But Issyk-Kul can be difficult to reach, and its infrastructure -- hotels, restaurants, and services -- are woefully underdeveloped. An international airport at nearby Tamchi is still under construction, and it needs much more work before it could host large planes full of tourists. Motivating Investors
Luzhkov stressed that while Russian investors might be keen on Issyk-Kul, they would expect early returns on their money.
"Today, there will be discussions about how we can find a balance: a balance in he need to expand the runway, to make a genuinely modern airport, and to give back in a defined period -- not more than four or five years -- the money invested," Luzhkov said.
Ahead of their flight to Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyz Prime Minister Feliks Kulov went out of his way to ensure Luzhkov that Moscow residents would be welcome on the lake's shores.
The Issyk-Kul airport (RFE/RL file photo)
"We're off for Issyk-Kul," Kulov said before he left with the Russian delegation for the mountain resort. Kulov even joked that Russian-backed developments might even spawn a new, Russian district in the area: "We have 10 administrative districts [there, and] we propose there should be an 11th -- it will be like a [tourist] center on the shore of Issyk-Kul. It should be [made] more convenient for Moscow residents to fly there, and [for Russian investors to] participate in the construction of the airport at Issyk-Kul -- for example, if we make available 500 hectares of land at Issyk-Kul. I think one could say that you're making a suburb of Moscow at Issyk-Kul."
Luzhkov and the Russian delegation also received a pledge of 100 hectares of land to be set aside for Russian investment in Bishkek. Luzhkov said Russian investors will build apartments there along with a "Moscow House."
He added that a corresponding "Bishkek House" will be built in Moscow -- both with private funding.
Luzhkov's Kyrgyz stopover came between visits to China and Mongolia, where he is reportedly looking to cement further investment opportunities for Russian investors.
(RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service contributed to this report.)
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