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Ambassador Jones: Thank you very much for joining me here today. I'm very happy to be in Kyrgyzstan, I've been here not quite 24 hours so far. I've had some very interesting, some very good meetings. But primarily I'm very impressed and grateful for the very strong support that Kyrgyzstan is giving to the coalition against terrorism. In particular, we are grateful for the support of the Parliament and the President in presenting and passing the Status of Forces Agreement that allows some of our forces to work out of Manas airport. A week from today we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the opening of the American Embassy in Bishkek. I expect that we will have a very strong Embassy here and a strong presence here for many, many years to come. Right now, as I said, we are very grateful for the ability of our Air Force to use Manas airbase. But that's only a small part of all of the cooperation and the work that we do with the Government of Kyrgyzstan and with the Kyrgyz people. We have been working very hard and we will continue to work to support the independent media, free speech, civil society, economic reform, which are all common goals of the people of the United States and the people of Kyrgyzstan. Thank you very much. I'd be happy to answer your questions.
Question From Aki-press: In December you made a presentation at the Subcommittee for Central Asia and the Caucasus, when you said that the U.S. will provide support to the independent media. My question is whether and when the support will really be provided, and in what form? Thank you.
Ambassador Jones: We have had programs in the Kyrgyz Republic for most of the past 10 years and we will continue to have programs that support independent media in quite a number of ways. Some of that support is in the form of training, and some of it is in the form of exchanges. Another way we support independent media is through our political support, through discussions with senior government officials to help them understand the importance to them of permitting free media.
Question From Res Publica: Isn't the deployment of American military forces in Kyrgyzstan, and the fact that the Kyrgyz Government supports the anti-terrorism coalition, resulting in the lessening of attention given by the United States to the human rights violations that are taking place practically every second? We are in a situation of repression and terror.
Ambassador Jones: We actually think that the opposite is the case. The more we cooperate, the more we have contact with the Government on some of the military issues that you mention, the more capacity we have to talk in greater detail about human rights cases, about the development of democracy, about economic reform, about combating poverty. For instance, your colleague mentioned the hearing that I appeared before in Congress, with the Subcommittee on Central Asia. That subcommittee had never existed before. It was the first time that it had been formed and I was the first person that they asked to come to speak to it. And the interest came because of the problems in Afghanistan of terrorism. It gave us, gave me the opportunity to talk about civil society and gave me the opportunity to talk about the importance of human rights and development of democracy in Central Asia.
Question From Res Publica: Could you tell us briefly what questions on human rights violations were raised during the meeting with [President] Akayev?
Ambassador Jones: I talked about the importance of the development of civil society to the war on terrorism. Because it is my firm belief that free speech, that democratic discussion, that democratic debate, in fact reduces the possibility that citizens will be attracted to join terrorist organizations.
Question From Itar-tass: Please tell us if the U.S. attitude toward events in Chechnya changed after September 11th?
Ambassador Jones: No, our policy didn't change in terms of Chechnya. We have been very outspoken on our concerns about how the Russian Federation is prosecuting the war in Chechnya. We firmly believe, and we say this regularly, that there is not a military solution to the problems in Chechnya. The only way that the situation on Chechnya can be resolved, we believe, is through addressing the social issues and the economic issues there. And we have encouraged the Government of the Russian Federation as well as representatives of the Chechen people to meet, to talk, to begin to resolve these issues.
Question From Res Publica: How do you comment on the fact that after the terrorist attacks in the U.S. on September 11, articles appeared in local pro-governmental media blaming the Kyrgyz opposition for participating in these attacks?
Ambassador Jones: I wasn't aware that these articles existed. But suffice it to say that I don't believe that to be true. And I think it's important for any reader of newspapers, especially when there is a free press, to understand that part of being a reader of the free press is to be discriminating in how one evaluates what one reads.
Question From Agym: There are 300 people conducting a hunger strike in the country. Was this issue raised during meeting with Askar Akayev?
Ambassador Jones: The issue of the reason for the hunger strike did come up in my meeting with the President. We believe, the U.S. believes very strongly that Mr. Beknazarov should be freed from prison until his legal process is undertaken, and we are hoping very much for a good result.
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