The Turkish Center for Asia Pacific Studies (APAC) conducted an exclusive interview with Ambassador Kubanychbek Omuraliev who evaluates the Kyrgyz-Turkish relations on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Independence of the Kyrgyz Republic.

APAC: Could you tell us about bilateral relations between Kyrgyzstan and Turkey on the eve of the 30th anniversary?

Ambassador Omuraliev: On August 31, 2021, our country will celebrate the 30th anniversary of Independence.

It is obvious that the 30th anniversary of Independence is a historically short period for a sovereign state, as you all know, our people and country have more than 2300 years of history. The Kyrgyz Republic intends to consistently promote democratic reforms, strengthen the rule of law, and protect and promote human rights. The Kyrgyz Republic remains fully committed to all its international obligations and strictly abides by all previously signed bilateral and multilateral treaties and agreements.

Kyrgyz and Turks are fraternal nations with common history, religion, culture, and language. Diplomatic relations between the Kyrgyz Republic and the Republic of Turkey were established on December 24, 1991, and this year will mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.  Turkey was the first foreign country to recognize the independence of Kyrgyzstan. In April 1992, the Turkish Embassy was opened in Bishkek and in October 1992, the Embassy of Kyrgyzstan was opened in Ankara.

The founding documents reflecting the inner content and spirit of relations between the two countries are the Treaty of Eternal Friendship and Cooperation between the Kyrgyz Republic and the Republic of Turkey of October 24, 1997, the Joint Statement of the Heads of the two countries “Kyrgyzstan and Turkey: Together Towards the 21st Century" of July 1, 1999, and the Statement on the establishment of the Supreme Council for Strategic Cooperation between Kyrgyzstan and Turkey dated April 26, 2011.

Cooperation between Kyrgyzstan and Turkey has a strategic status, enshrined in the form of the Supreme Council for Strategic Cooperation. Currently, Kyrgyz-Turkish relations are developing progressively and dynamically and are at a high level of bilateral interaction.

During the years of Independence of the Kyrgyz Republic, several mutual visits were made at the highest and high levels. In September 2018, President Erdoğan paid an official visit to Kyrgyzstan, during which the 4th meeting of the Supreme Council for Strategic Cooperation between the Kyrgyz Republic and Turkey was held. Also, President Erdoğan took part in the 6th Summit of the Heads of State of the Turkic Council and the opening of the Third World Nomad Games on the shores of Lake Issyk-Kul.

After Sadyr Japarov was elected President of the Kyrgyz Republic in January 2021, telephone conversation was held with President Erdoğan where the development of bilateral cooperation and joint fight against the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences was discussed. On March 31, 2021, President Japarov and President Erdoğan, along with the heads of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Hungary participated in the informal Summit of the Turkic Council via video conference.

On the eve of the official visit of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic Japarov to Turkey and the holding of the 5th meeting of the Supreme Council for Strategic Cooperation in 2021 in Ankara, consecutively, the 3rd meeting of the Joint Strategic Planning Group was held on May 7, 2019, the 9th meeting of the Kyrgyz-Turkish Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation on November 22, 2019, which had not been held since 2014, and bilateral political consultations between Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the two countries on May 14, 2020, not held since 2017.

Mutual visits of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic R. Kazakbayev to Turkey between November 8–11, 2020 and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey M. Çavuşoğlu to Kyrgyzstan on March 10, 2021 facilitated to make a kind of "reset" on many issues of the current agenda of Kyrgyz-Turkish relations, identify priority areas of interaction and cooperation for the short, medium, and long term.

Kyrgyzstan expresses sincere gratitude to fraternal and friendly Turkey for the support provided over the years of Kyrgyzstan's independence, and reaffirms its commitment to the development of strategic partnership and friendly relations with Turkey for the benefit of the two people.

APAC: What is the trade and economic cooperation between Kyrgyzstan and Turkey today?

Ambassador Omuraliev: Economic cooperation is a priority area in bilateral Kyrgyz-Turkish relations. Turkey is one of the main trade and investment partners of Kyrgyzstan that occupies a special place in the structure of foreign trade of the Kyrgyz Republic, entering the top 5 countries.

The volume of trade between Kyrgyzstan and Turkey in 2020 amounted to $ 507.5 million (exports of the Kyrgyz Republic - $91.1 million, imports of the Kyrgyz Republic - $416.4 million), which is less than in 2019 for $11.7 million ( $519.2 million in 2019). The parties are working to increase the trade between the two countries to $ 1 billion.

Note that despite the pandemic, the trade turnover of the two countries in 2020 remained almost at the same level, and the volume of Kyrgyz exports to Turkey increased compared with 2019 by $13.9 million, which is 18%.

​The main export of Kyrgyzstan to Turkey are beans, walnuts, cotton and cotton fabrics, raw hides, leather and leather products, jewelry (precious stones, various jewelry made of gold and silver), gold, metals, mineral fuels and copper waste, aluminum alloys, as well as weapons and ammunition.

The main import from Turkey are light industrial products (clothing, shoes, textiles), pharmaceuticals, chemicals (paints, varnishes, soaps, detergents, perfumes, cosmetics), plastics, rubber (rubber products, etc.), machinery manufacturing and engineering products ( equipment, mechanical equipment, electrical machines, devices, etc.), food and agricultural raw materials (vegetables, fruits, confectionery, nuts, seeds, etc.), ferrous, non-ferrous, non-precious metals, jewelry, wooden products, furniture and accessories, leather products.

It is also important to note that during the pandemic, Turkish Airlines increased its cargo flights to the countries of East and Southeast Asia via Manas airport in Bishkek. In this regard, I want to emphasize the great opportunities for Turkish airlines, not only in the field of cargo transportation, but also in the field of passenger transportation. In the future, Manas airport may become a regional aviation hub, giving foreign airlines the "right of the fifth degree of air freedom."

According to the National Statistical Committee of the Kyrgyz Republic, the volume of direct investments from Turkey into Kyrgyzstan in 2018 amounted to $93.4 million, in 2019- $94.5 million and it is increased compared to 2018 by $1.1 million. In 2020, the inflow of FDI from Turkey to Kyrgyzstan amounted to $22.8 million and compared to 2019 it is decreased by $71.7 million.

In the investment sphere, Kyrgyzstan is interested in the implementation of joint industrial enterprises with fraternal Turkey in the field of agriculture, textiles, mining, hydropower, and other areas of mutual interest.

In this regard, we consider that it is reasonable to eliminate various technical barriers in bilateral trade, developing mechanisms to support exports and ways of expanding the use of the opportunities of Kyrgyzstan within the Eurasian Economic Union by Turkish businesspersons, as well as improving investment opportunities for Turkish entrepreneurs in the Kyrgyz Republic. 

APAC: What measures and steps are being taken to develop trade and economic ties between the two countries?

Ambassador Omuraliev: Recently, the parties have taken numerous measures to develop trade and economic cooperation between the two countries. Among them, the 9th meeting of the Kyrgyz-Turkish Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation (ITEC), which was held in Ankara on November 22, 2019, the Kyrgyz-Turkish Business Forum in Istanbul on November 21, 2019, in which more than 350 entrepreneurs from Kyrgyzstan and Turkey took part, and the Kyrgyz-Turkish Business Forum in Karaman during January 19-20, 2020 with the participation of more than 95 entrepreneurs, mutual visits of businesspersons to Kyrgyzstan and Turkey, etc. In November 2020 and March 2021, the two countries' Ministers of Foreign Affairs visited Turkey and Kyrgyzstan respectively, during which the issues of further development of trade and economic cooperation between the two countries were also discussed.

To strengthen trade and economic ties between Kyrgyzstan and Turkey and attract investment, the Embassy holds regular meetings with leaders and entrepreneurs of the Chambers of Commerce and Organized Industrial Zones of Turkey's provinces and makes presentations.

This year, it is planned to hold the 10th meeting of the Kyrgyz-Turkish Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) and Business Forum with the participation of the business communities of the two countries in the Issyk-Kul region of Kyrgyzstan.

Also, to get acquainted with the investment potential and the opening of production sites in the Kyrgyz Republic, the Embassy organizes visits of delegations of Turkish businesspersons and business circles to Kyrgyzstan.

APAC: Tell us about the investment potential and the conditions for doing business in Kyrgyzstan?

Ambassador Omuraliev: Every year, new conducive conditions are created for investors in Kyrgyzstan. The number of taxes has been reduced, the main of which, VAT is 12%, corporate tax – 10%, income tax - 10%. If the investor implements investment projects corresponding to the priority type of activity (sector of the economy) of the state, imported technological equipment, components and spare parts for it, raw materials and materials are exempt from customs duties.

Promising spheres for investors in Kyrgyzstan are agriculture, construction, service and tourism, IT technologies, energy, processing, and mining industries.

It should be noted that the Government of Kyrgyzstan is always ready to continue protecting the legal rights of Turkish investors and entrepreneurs who conduct or planning business in our country.

The embassy, for its part, provides all possible assistance to Turkish businesspersons wishing to invest in our country. From providing the necessary information to organizing their visits to our country, meetings with the relevant ministries, departments and businessmen of Kyrgyzstan, etc.

 The Embassy's website contains information about the investment and tourism potentials of our country in Turkish and English, and the Ministry of Investment Promotion and Protection of Kyrgyzstan has an investment map with projects on its website. 

 APAC: Are there any bilateral agreements on investment protection and taxation between the two countries?

Ambassador Omuraliev: The Kyrgyz Republic and Turkey have agreements on mutual encouragement and protection of investments and on the avoidance of double taxation, which creates equal conditions for Kyrgyz and Turkish entrepreneurs-investors. In this regard, I urge Turkish investors to actively invest and do business in our country. Simultaneously, I consider it important noting that if an entrepreneur works in accordance with the law and pays taxes on time, then in whatever country he works, he will not have any problems.

 It should also be noted that on the initiative of President Japarov, new investment legislation is being developed, particularly the Investment Code is being created. The Code will aim state support for investment activities, stimulation of investment, as well as protecting the rights of investors. 

 APAC: What are the investor visas?

Ambassador Omuraliev: There is a business visa regime between Kyrgyzstan and Turkey for a period of up to 90 days, and if investment reaches 10 million Soms (about 130 thousand US dollars) for investors and their family members, investment visas are issued for 3 years.

 APAC: Could you tell us about the Kyrgyz-Turkish cultural and humanitarian cooperation?

Ambassador Omuraliev: Bilateral cultural and humanitarian cooperation between Kyrgyzstan and Turkey is developing in all directions and has positive dynamics.

Over 30 years of diplomatic relations, there are many examples of successful interaction. One of them is the activities of the Kyrgyz-Turkish University "Manas," which has become a kind of educational bridge not only between Kyrgyzstan and Turkey, but also in the region.

The Agreement signed in November 2020 between the Ministry of Education and Science of the Kyrgyz Republic and the Turkish Maarif Foundation regarding the opening and operation of private educational institutions in Kyrgyzstan, which will be the first among the countries of Central Asia and, due to the high-quality education, will be able to create competition in the field of education in Kyrgyzstan. Over the years of independence, hundreds of Kyrgyz students have been studied in Turkish universities, most of them under the state program.

As part of the implementation of the Agreement in the field of education between the Ministry of Education and Science of the Kyrgyz Republic and the Ministry of National Education of Turkey more than 3 thousand students from the Kyrgyz Republic graduated from the universities of the Turkey in the period 1992–2012.

Since 2012, the Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB) under the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey has been organizing the selection of citizens of the Kyrgyz Republic for study at universities in the Turkey for all academic degrees.

Currently, 1,792 citizens of the Kyrgyz Republic are studying at the universities of Turkey,  734 of them are under the state program.

Simultaneously, Turkish citizens study at higher educational institutions of Kyrgyzstan. Currently, 490 citizens of Turkey are studying at the universities of the Kyrgyz Republic,  311 of them study at the KTU "Manas," 22 at the Kyrgyz National University named after J. Balasagyn.

The most important cultural event aimed to develop bilateral cooperation is the World Nomad Games, initiated by Kyrgyzstan, and held in 2014, 2016, and 2018. The goal of the World Nomad Games is to revive and preserve the culture, identity, and way of life of the nomadic peoples of the world. During the Third World Nomad Games at shore of Issyk-Kul lake in Kyrgyzstan in September 2018, it was decided to hold the next Fourth World Nomad Games in Turkey in 2020. The World Nomad Games were planned to be held in the city of Iznik, Bursa province in 2021, however, due to the coronavirus epidemic, it has been postponed to 2022.

Cooperation in the cultural sphere is implemented both at the bilateral level and within the framework of international organization TURKSOY. Over the past two years, several events have been held such as the "First Lady - General of Asia" evening dedicated to the memory of the historical personality Kurmanzhan Datka, commemorative events dedicated to the 80th anniversary of S. Chokmorov, 75th anniversary of T. Tursunbaeva, 70th anniversary of Ch. Bazarbaeva and others.

One of the important events held by the Embassy together with local authorities recently is the official opening of the monument to Chingiz Aitmatov on December 12, 2019-on the birthday of the writer, the monument was erected in the park of the same name in the Keçiören Municipality of Ankara.

Against the background of the global spread of the corona crisis, relations between the Kyrgyz Republic and Turkey in the field of healthcare have intensified significantly and demonstrated a positive movement in their development. On July 15, 2020, the Turkish Government sent humanitarian aid to Kyrgyzstan in the form of medicines and oxygen machines. During the pandemic, the issue of temporary opening of the Bishkek hospital of the Kyrgyz-Turkish friendship for its use was agreed upon before the start of the process of joint management of the Ministries of Health of the Kyrgyz Republic and Turkey. At present, all procedures of domestic approval in both countries have been completed and the full-fledged functioning of the hospital is expected to begin.

It should be noted that in accordance with the Agreement between the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic and the Government of the Republic of Turkey on cooperation in the field of health and medical sciences, 150 citizens of the Kyrgyz Republic were treated free of charge in hospitals in the Turkey every year. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, in February 2020, the Turkish side suspended the implementation of this Agreement, not only with the Kyrgyz side but also with other foreign states. We hope that soon the implementation of the Agreement will resume, and our citizens will be able to undergo treatment in Turkey.

Additionally, both the Ministry of Health of the Kyrgyz Republic and private pharmaceutical companies import medicines and medical equipment from Turkey.

Another example of successful interaction between the parties is the Social Security Agreement signed in 2018 between the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic and the Government of Turkey. According to the Agreement, citizens of the two republics who work on a legal basis and pay insurance premiums can receive pensions and benefits both on the territory of Kyrgyzstan and on the territory of Turkey.

 APAC: In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, what kind of assistance is provided to Kyrgyz citizens living in Turkey?

Ambassador Omuraliev: In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, as before, one of the main activities of the Embassy is to protect the rights and interests of citizens. The embassy is on a permanent basis in direct contact with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Internal Affairs, educational (YTB) and migration services, universities, local authorities of Turkey.

On April 10, 2020, an extraordinary meeting of the Heads of the Cooperation Council of Turkic-Speaking States (CCTS) was held in the format of a video conference, following which an agreement was reached on the mutual granting of migration exemptions the abolition of penalties for late registration of residence permits.

All the necessary information about the measures taken by the governments and local authorities is regularly posted on the official website and on the pages in the social networks of the Embassy. The Embassy is in constant contact with representatives of the diaspora and activists of student associations, and the Embassy is working in cooperation with them to help citizens who are in a difficult situation due to the pandemic.

Due to the suspension of regular flights between Kyrgyzstan and Turkey, 12 charter flights of Turkish and Pegasus airlines were organized by the efforts of the Embassy and Governments of the two countries from March to August 2020. Thanks to these charter flights more than 3200 of our citizens from Turkey were returned, including citizens traveling in transit through Turkey from the third countries (U.S., Canada, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Hungary, Slovakia, Georgia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, etc.).

Organizing work on the return of citizens from March to July 2020 was worth additional effort, due to the ban on movement between 31 cities in Turkey during this period. In this regard, the Embassy additionally worked out the issue of obtaining permits for citizens of Kyrgyzstan from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Turkey, and local authorities to reach the airports of Istanbul. For most citizens living in the cities of Ankara, Antalya, Izmir, Kastamonu, Karabük, Kayseri, Konya, etc., the Embassy regularly organized vehicles to move to the airports of Istanbul.

The website of the Embassy is fully functioning, where news and information on changes in the legislation of the two countries in the consular direction in different languages (Kyrgyz, Turkish, Russian, and English) are posted on time. For prompt response to citizens' appeals, the pages of the Embassy have been opened in such social networks as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Interview with  Ambassador Omuraliev on the Eve of the 30th Anniversary of the Independence of the Kyrgyz Republic

H.E. Kubanychbek Omuraliev, Ambassador of the Kyrgyz Republic to Turkey 

Ambassador Kubanychbek Omuraliev: Kyrgyz and Turks are fraternal nations with common history, religion, culture, and language. 

The Turkish Center for Asia Pacific Studies (APAC) - May 14, 2021

President Sadyr Japarov and Ambassador Kubanychbek Omuraliev