Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) (AFP) – Ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan on Tuesday announced it was tearing up a long-running cooperation agreement with the United States after Washington awarded a rights prize to a jailed ethnic minority campaigner.
Central Asian Kyrgyzstan and the United States inked a cooperation deal in 1993 and the strategically located nation hosted a key US military base supplying the war effort in Afghanistan until 2014.
Kyrgyzstan, however, has pursued a strongly pro-Russian foreign policy since incumbent President Almazbek Atambayev was elected in 2011.
Washington warned Monday that any move to sever the agreement “could put assistance programmes that benefit the Kyrgyzstani people in jeopardy”.
Kyrgyzstan’s foreign ministry last week slammed the US State Department’s decision to give its Human Rights Defender Award to Azimjon Askarov, an ethnic Uzbek.
Askarov was sentenced to life imprisonment for his alleged role in inciting clashes between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in the south of the country five years ago.
A number of foreign governments and civil rights advocates inside and outside the country have spoken out against the jailing of Askarov, who was noted for regularly exposing the excesses of local police in the ethnically divided region.
The bilateral cooperation agreement is expected to be officially terminated from August 20.