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Kyrgyz President Wants China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan Railway

Kyrgyz President Pushes For Trans-Asia Railway
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BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev says his government strongly supports a project to build a trans-Asia railway to connect his country to both China and Uzbekistan.

The more than $2 billion rail line is planned to run from Kashgar in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region to Andijon in Uzbekistan, where it would link to the Uzbek rail network.

But it remains unclear who will provide the investment needed to build Kyrgyzstan's stretch of the railway, while many Kyrgyz remain emotionally averse to China's increasing presence in the tiny country.

In an interview in Bishkek with RFE/RL, Atambaev said his country "should get maximum benefit" from such a powerful neighbor as China.

The project "will give a great push for the Kyrgyz economy. On the other hand, we are demanding that this railroad should connect all railroads in Kyrgyzstan; it's our condition," Atambaev said.

"The railroad will go through the Naryn and Osh regions, and that's how the northern Naryn region will be connected to the main railroad. North and south will be connected through this railroad. The whole Kyrgyzstan will be connected," he continued.

Uniting The South

"This winter was very harsh and the south was cut off from the north for several weeks. And this railroad will unite far parts of Kyrgyzstan with each other, and it will help to unite our regions together."

Atambaev also vowed to continue efforts to bring interethnic peace in the country's south.

The region was the scene of clashes between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in June 2010, in which around 450 people were killed and thousands of homes and businesses destroyed.

"There is a deep confrontation or misunderstanding and lots of issues between Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities in the south -- and no integration," Atambaev said.

"And we see only one decision of this: somebody has to make a political step to stop this division into Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities, and to make all of them citizens of Kyrgyzstan and unite them through this," he continued.

"Only then can we stop new tragedies in the future in this region. Now we see nationalism on both the Kyrgyz and Uzbek sides."

Atambaev pointed to "foreign involvement" in the June 2010 events aimed at destabilizing the situation in Kyrgyzstan, without elaborating.

WATCH: Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev discusses the future use of the Manas air base by U.S. forces.
Kyrgyz President Discusses Manas Transit Center
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U.S. Manas Base Lease

On the fate of the U.S. military airbase at Manas airport near Bishkek after 2014, when most NATO troops are set to be withdrawn from Afghanistan, Atambaev said U.S. operations would use a civilian airport.

"Now [the United States] has some troops in the Manas Transit Center, and it's a civilian airport -- Kyrgyzstan's main airport -- and there shouldn't be any military troops [there] after 2014," he said.

"There is no other place like this: Istanbul, Frankfurt, or Moscow, if you go any civilian airport, you will not find any military troops located there.

"But when it comes to transporting goods, logistics, we will continue doing that. It's not necessary to keep troops in Manas Transit Center for carrying goods, logistics to Afghanistan."

Atambaev has repeatedly vowed not to extend the lease of the Manas base used by U.S. troops when the current agreement expires in 2014.

Ties between Bishkek and Moscow have been damaged in recent months over issues including Russia's participation in hydropower projects in Kyrgyzstan and Kyrgyzstan's refusal to let Russia take over a controlling stake in Dastan, a naval weapons factory in Bishkek.

Atambaev told RFE/RL the disputes were resolving themselves.

The interview was conducted by RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service Director Venera Djumataeva and Bishkek bureau chief Sultan Jumagulov

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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