New Kyrgyz President Vows Balanced Foreign Policy With Russia As Main 'Strategic Partner'

Sooronbai Jeenbekov was inaugurated as president on November 24.

Kyrgyzstan's new president, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, has called Russia his country's "main strategic partner" but signaled that he will seek to balance ties with Moscow, China, and the European Union during his six-year term.

"We intend to deepen our allied relations with Russia, our main strategic partner, and China remains our important strategic and trade partner," Jeenbekov told Russian state news agency TASS in an interview three days after his inauguration on November 24.

"We surely [will] continue developing our cooperation with our European partners, especially in such issues as supporting parliamentary and developing the Open Society program," Jeenbekov said.

He made no mention of the United States in his comments on foreign policy, according to the TASS transcript.

Bishkek is eager to strengthen "neighborly" relations with other former Soviet republics in Central Asia "based on the principle of mutual respect and noninterference into each other's internal affairs," Jeenbekov said.

Jeenbekov was outgoing President Almazbek Atambaev's favorite in the October 15 election. Relations with neighboring Kazakhstan are tense after Atambaev criticized Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev and accused him of seeking to interfere in the vote by meeting with Jeenbekov's chief rival for the presidency in September.

Jeenbekov also said that Kyrgyzstan will keep on "increasing multilevel cooperation with all strategic and traditional partners" under the auspices of the Commonwealth of Independent States, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Collective Security Treaty Organization, and the Eurasian Economic Union -- regional groupings that are dominated by larger countries including Russia, Kazakhstan, and China.