Almaty, Bishkek; 12 November 1997 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton today arrived in Bishkek -- her second stop in Central Asia after Almaty. Speaking at Bishkek airport, Clinton said she is visiting on behalf of her husband, President Bill Clinton, in order to reinforce U.S.-Kyrgyzstan ties.
Hillary Clinton said Kyrgyzstan is making important progress in building a democratic, civil society. She also said Kyrgyzstan's future depends on cooperation among elected leaders, government, democratic institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and individuals. Clinton spoke of the importance of elements to sustain a civil society and ensure the future, including: protecting the environment, improving women's health, supporting a free press, giving equal educational opportunities, creating an independent judiciary and protecting the rights of the disabled.
Clinton said the U.S. is committed to a partnership with Kyrgyzstan. She said she had brought with her medical aid worth $2 million, which will go to hospitals located in Bishkek and Osh (southern Kyrgyzstan). Clinton said that since 1992, U.S. assistance to Kyrgyzstan had amounted to $70 million.
Clinton stressed that her visit is aimed at strengthening bonds of friendship between the two countries.
From the airport, Clinton traveled to the village of Pazlovka, on the outskirts of Bishkek, to meet Kyrgyz women who have received U.S.-sponsored loans. The U.S. loan program, known as micro-crediting, is designed to help local women start their own businesses.
The Chairman of Kyrgyzstan's Human Rights Committee, Ramazan Eyryldaez, told our Bishkek correspondent he hopes that the U.S. First Lady, a known advocate of human rights, will pay close attention to this issue in Kyrgyzstan.