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Kyrgyz PM Cautious On Joining Russia-Led Customs Union

Kyrgyz Prime Minister Almazbek Atambaev
Kyrgyz Prime Minister Almazbek Atambaev
BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz acting Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov said Kyrgyzstan's interests must be taken into account if it joins the Belarus-Kazakhstan-Russia Customs Union, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

In an online conference organized by RFE/RL on October 13, Babanov said that "the customs union's member-states are our closest trade partners and, yes, our citizens face huge difficulties and problems when crossing borders with these countries, therefore maybe the majority of those problems could be solved if our country joins the [customs] union."

But he added that "Kyrgyzstan has to put forward its own conditions when joining that union, taking into account the interests of our citizens working at the Dordoi and Kara-Suu markets."

The Belarus-Kazakhstan-Russia Customs Union was launched last year. It offers trade privileges to member countries, including lower export-import tariffs, cheaper prices for many goods, and simplified procedures for travel, residence, and work permits for the citizens of member states.

Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov told journalists in Bishkek last month that Kyrgyzstan should join the customs union in order to simplify the border-crossing process for Kyrgyz labor migrants.

Then-Kyrgyz Prime Minister Almazbek Atambaev agreed with Masimov that Kyrgyzstan could solve many problems -- including those faced by labor migrants -- if it joined the customs union.

Atambaev has called several times in the past for Kyrgyzstan to join the union, but many politicians oppose doing so.

On October 4, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called in an article on the front page of the daily "Izvestia" for the creation of a "Eurasian Union" based on the Belarus-Kazakhstan-Russia Customs Union.

Read more in Kyrgyz here