Alikbek Jekshenkulov (file photo) (RFE/RL)
BISHKEK, August 29, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Alikbek Jekshenkulov today defended the government against the attacks of human rights campaigners who criticize it for collaborating closely with neighboring Uzbekistan on security issues.
In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Jekshenkulov said Kyrgyzstan is in no position to "fight terrorism" alone and has to enlist the support of its neighbors.
"If there is cooperation between the security services of [Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan] on security issues, is it something bad? Not only Kyrgyzstan, but even the world's leading states are unable to fight terrorism alone," he said. "That's why he have to cooperate with the whole international community [in general], and with our neighbors [in particular] on those issues."
On July 25, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev said that he and his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov, had recently agreed to join forces
in combatting "international terrorism" and "religious extremism"
On August 6, Rafiq Qori Kamoluddin
, a prominent ethnic Uzbek imam in the Kyrgyz town of Kara-Suu, was killed in nearby Osh during a joint Kyrgyz-Uzbek security operation.
On August 9, Kyrgyzstan deported four Uzbek UN refugees
and one asylum seeker who were wanted in their home country for their alleged participation in the May 2005 Andijon unrest.
Kyrgyz rights campaigners, including Ombudsman Tursunbai Bakir-uulu, have criticized Bakiev for "imitating Karimov's heavy-handed policy" against alleged Islamic militants.