Prague, 17 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - President Askar Akayev of Kyrgyzstan completed his third U.S. visit this week, this time not seeking aid for his country so much as recognition as an equal. He encountered what some journalists interpreted as a cool reception, and others went so far as to label a snub.
Akayev had expected to meet in Washington with U.S. President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Both top U.S. officials were traveling in Europe. So he lunched instead with State Under-Secretary Thomas Pickering and other State Department staffers. Subsequently, he met U.S. Vice President Al Gore for discussions of Kyrgyzstan's reforms of Central Asian stability.
Following the Gore meeting, Akayev stepped into a nearby lobby for a scheduled session with reporters. Our correspondent in Washington says that nobody introduced the Kyrgyz head of state. When our correspondent posed a question in Kyrgyz, Akayev responded that he would rather take questions from the other "guests" first. The other reporters, not knowing the language, apparently took Akayev's response as a sign he would not entertain questions. They left.
Earlier, Akayev began his U.S. visit in New York for meetings with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, and philanthropist George Soros.
Soros' foundation in Kyrgyzstan is working to improve educational facilities there. The foundation and its leader Chinara Jakipova came under fire from state-owned media in March and April for being pro-opposition in Kyrgyzstan. In New York, Akayev gave Soros a state award for his service to Kyrgyzstan.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott is scheduled to give what has been advertised as a major speech next Monday at Johns Hopkins University on Washington's expanded interest in the Caucasus and Central Asia.