U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met today with President Roza Otunbayeva in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. After their meeting, Secretary Clinton said:
"...We had a very productive meeting, discussing a broad range of issues, and I expressed to the President the admiration that the United States feels for the difficult road that Kyrgyzstan has decided to walk. This is a bold endeavor that the people of this country have undertaken, reinventing its democratic governance with a strong parliament designed to represent the full diversity of the people and regions in Kyrgyzstan. And we salute the resolve that the President and the people showed in holding these elections, which were widely applauded as being free, fair, and legitimate. Countries with a much longer history of elections have not achieved the high quality of election that was held here, in Kyrgyzstan. And we congratulate you for that, Madam President.
"We are well aware that there are many difficulties and tensions within the country that will have to be addressed. But it's important to recognize, as the United States has learned over our history as a democracy, that democracy is not a destination; you have to continue to improve it and perfect it. It is a road that people decide to travel together. And we are encouraged to see the coalition-building going on inside your parliament to arrive at a government that will have an opposition. There are many who say parliamentary democracy, true parliamentary democracy, cannot work in Central Asia, or in many other places in the world. We reject that, and we think Kyrgyzstan is proving that it can.
"I know from my own decades spent in politics that elections are actually not the hardest part of democracy, although they sometimes feel like that for those who run and those who win and those who lose. Because when elections end, the challenges of democratic leadership begin. It is especially important that a constitutional democracy grow and thrive here in Kyrgyzstan, because no form of government is better suited to handling the challenges posed by diverse ethnic or religious groups. Constitutional democracy creates a forum where people start from the premise that certain principles must be upheld by the rule of law. And those principles serve as guardrails. They govern the way that people from different backgrounds, traditions, and customs, can discuss, debate, and work together to form a nation in which all citizens are entitled to the same rights. In particular, we hope that the authorities ensure that the trials of those held responsible for the ethnic violence in June, and of former government officials and members of the security forces, proceed in accordance with the full due process guaranteed under Kyrgyz law.
"This is a country that has been through a great deal of change and upheaval. And the violence of this past June was a terrible tragedy. In fact, the loss of life during this year -- all of the victims and their families have our sympathy, and I send condolences to all those who lost loved ones and friends. The elections, however, show that the people of Kyrgyzstan want to resolve disputes peacefully through politics, not violence.
"America will stand with the government and people of Kyrgyzstan as you work to deliver economic results, and national reconciliation, and safeguard the basic rights and freedoms for people here. The president and I spoke about our shared interests in a stable region, and a stable Afghanistan. Both the United States and Kyrgyzstan will be more secure if we can help the Afghan people build a peaceful, stable country free of violent extremism and those who promote it.
"I thank the President for Kyrgyzstan's support for the transit center at Manas, which is making a very important contribution to the international effort to stabilize Afghanistan and provide regional security. Most coalition troops are transported to Afghanistan through Manas, and we are very grateful to your nation for hosting that.
"Finally, one of my priorities at every step on my trip to Central Asia -- or on any trip -- as we discussed at the OSCE Summit in Astana, is that democracy, human rights, and vibrant civil society help assure stable, prosperous countries. A broad partnership between governments and the people whom they govern is essential to assist in providing that strong, democratic institutional support. I am looking forward later this afternoon to going to the beautiful opera house to discuss with students and representatives of civil society the challenges and opportunities that they see here in Kyrgyzstan.
"And I was very pleased to tell the President that the United States will host a Central Asia and Afghanistan women's empowerment conference here in Bishkek in May. We will recognize the vital role that women in Kyrgyzstan play, not only from your president, but to women entrepreneurs, women journalists, women academics, and professionals from all walks of life. And we think that the example here in Kyrgyzstan will be very helpful to women from Afghanistan and elsewhere in Central Asia.
"We are inspired by what the men and women of the Kyrgyz Republic have accomplished, and we appreciate the partnership that you have with the United States. And, Madam President, I want to assure you that the United States will continue to work with you, and we will continue to invest in this future that you are trying to build for yourselves."
You can read Secretary Clinton's full remarks with President Otunbayeva here. Secretary Clinton is traveling to Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Uzbekistan, and Bahrain November 30 - December 3. Learn more about her trip here.