Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev has defended his government's decision to terminate a long-standing cooperation agreement with the United States and accused Washington of "provocation" aimed at disrupting interethnic harmony in Kyrgyzstan.
Earlier this month Bishkek formally terminated a 1993 agreement on cooperation with the United States, after protesting a U.S. decision to grant a prestigious human rights award to an imprisoned ethnic Uzbek activist from Kyrgyzstan.
Azimjon Askarov, who is serving a life sentence, was awarded the 2014 Human Rights Defender prize by the U.S. State Department, which praised him for "bringing together people of all ethnicities."
Atambaev said on July 27 the award was a "provocation" and could nurture a dangerous "separatist mood" among the Uzbek minority by promoting "the opinion that Kyrgyzstan is bad for them."
Washington warned that terminating the accord could "jeopardize" assistance to the country.
Askarov, 64, was convicted following interethnic clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010, when more than 400 people were killed.