Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will pay an official visit to Kyrgyzstan in near days
Iranian President's visit will be the second official visit to Kyrgyzstan, after his official visit within the framework of participation in the 13th SCO Summit in September 2013.
At the invitation of President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Hassan Rouhani, President of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambayev paid an official visit to Iran in September 2015. During the meeting the two leaders discussed topical issues of bilateral relations, the future prospects of trade and economic cooperation between Kyrgyzstan and Iran, as well as the implementation of joint infrastructure projects. The meeting was resulted in signing a number of documents aimed at enhancing cooperation and deepening bilateral relations between the two countries.
In addition, during an official trip to Iran President Atambayev held a detailed discussion with the spiritual leader of Iran Ali Hosseini Khamenei the future dynamics of bilateral relations, in particular the implementation of agreements reached during the talks between Kyrgyz and Iranian Presidents.
The history and state of bilateral relations between Kyrgyzstan and Iran
Iran was one of the first countries to officially recognize the sovereignty of the Kyrgyz Republic. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were established on May 10, 1992. The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran was opened in Kyrgyzstan in 1993 and the Kyrgyz Embassy in Tehran opened in 1994. Diplomatic relations between the two countries have developed after the exchange of visits by Heads of State and Heads of Government. Cooperation between the two countries is implemented in the framework of international and regional organizations such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation (ECO) and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
From 1991 to 2007 relations between Kyrgyzstan and Iran were stable, but were not notable in dynamics. In 2007, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad paid an official visit to Bishkek within the SCO Summit. After 2008, there was activation in the development of treaties and agreements of bilateral cooperation between Kyrgyzstan and Iran in the field of trade and investments, but due to the political events of 2010 in Kyrgyzstan there was a reduction of the dynamics of relations between the states in trade-economic and political spheres. A new impetus to the establishment of bilateral relations was given in 2013, when, after the official visit of the newly elected President of Iran Hassan Rouhani to Bishkek, the cooperation between the states has started intensifying.
Kyrgyz experts think that Iran's political strategy in relation to the Kyrgyz Republic is based on the overall strategy of Iran with respect to the Central Asian countries, whose main objective is the preservation and development of all areas of cooperation.
Experts’ opinion regarding bilateral relations
Expert on international affairs and conflicts Edil Osmonbetov said that during 25 years the Kyrgyz-Iranian relations has been developed by periods. "If at the beginning of 1990 there was the dawn of bilateral relations, which lasted until 2001, after that year there was a lull in the dynamics of the relationship. The reason for that was deployment of US troops in Afghanistan as part of Enduring Freedom Operation and the opening of Gansy airbase, which was renamed later Manas Transit Center in Kyrgyzstan," he said.
The expert said that for this reason, in the period from 2001 to 2014, bilateral relations were not active. "There was also a problem, Iran was under serious international UN sanctions, which have not yet abolished, though the decision on it has been taken," Osmonbetov said.
He also said that Iran could not go beyond that, and international isolation, financial sanctions do not allow the country to open up fully. "In connection with difficult economic situation of the country, Iran even couldn’t sell the oil and had big problem with money. And therefore the bilateral relations between Kyrgyzstan and Iran were limited with cultural exhibitions and trade and economic starts," the expert said.
Political scientist Mars Sariev, who has worked in the Kyrgyz Embassy in Iran, also told the dynamism of relations between Kyrgyzstan and Iran, which, according to his observations, has been improved just after 2010. "Before that, there was a slight cooling, but now there is positive trend," he added.
The analyst said that among Central Asian republics Kyrgyzstan is notable for dynamic relations with Iran. "Relations are very good both in political and economic spheres. Iran imports from Kyrgyzstan meat, the trade turnover is not bad. Under the agreement between Kyrgyzstan and Iran, they are provided with a platform, which they use for meat exports to Iran, and instead of it we had to use the port of Bandar Abbas. But for some reason, our side has not yet taken advantage of this opportunity," he said.
The representative of the expert club "Dalil +", said with regret that before there was a direct flight from Bishkek to Mashhad. "It would be nice to restore it, because Iran is a very promising country. Removal of UN sanctions gives a very positive outlook for the development of bilateral relations," Sariev said.
With regard to the new stage of development of relations between Kyrgyzstan and Iran expert Osmonbetov said that the renaissance or impetus of activation of relations has begun since winter 2015 - spring 2016. "Firstly, trade and economic relations and international cooperation have been enhanced. And the opening of the Iranian media in Kyrgyzstan also demonstrates that the Iranian side wants an active presence on the geopolitical field of Central Asia. It's like an alternative. You have to understand that Iran is a regional power that has its own geopolitical interests in Central Asia," the expert said.
The expert stressed that Kyrgyzstan should build relationships with everyone. "The reason is that the global processes like geopolitical and geo-economic, after all, they lead to regional and global synchronization of countries of the world. And Kyrgyzstan needs to find common ground with all participants of Central Asia, the major players in the Middle East and other countries. Moreover, Iran is seeking to play a more active role in the Caucasus and in Central Asia. But of course, they have geopolitical rivals in the face of China, Russia and the United States. But in any case, we have to take this into account like the other factors. And we must proceed from the fact that Kyrgyzstan should get benefits and to defend its interests in geopolitical terms. It's natural," Osmonbetov emphasized.
In other words, the first impulse - the lifting of sanctions and the withdrawal of the US air base – started to bring the bilateral relations between Kyrgyzstan and Iran to more qualitative level. "We should not forget that each country has its own interests and we need to build good neighborly relations with everybody, but on the basis of national and geopolitical interests of Kyrgyzstan," the expert said.
Osmonbetov believes that becoming of Kyrgyzstan the geopolitical player in the region also plays an important role in fence-mending with other countries.
"In recent years, Kyrgyzstan is trying to be a geopolitical player to take into account regional and global interests of the republic,” he said.
Political analyst Toktogul Kakchekeyev believes that Kyrgyzstan and Iran establish strong trade and economic ties, and Ruhani’s visit can bring relations to a sufficiently high level.
"Iran has extensive developed scientific and technical potential among Muslim countries. Iran is a country with unique cultural and historical heritage, which had influence in the Central Asian region," the political analyst said.
The purpose of Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Kyrgyzstan
Osmonbetov believes that the purpose of Rouhani’s visit to Kyrgyzstan is one: "First, the powerful global geopolitical shift indicates. Two events that occurred in 2016 – it is Brexit, (the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union) and Trump’s victory in US elections. The situation has changed completely, and 2017 will be the most difficult for the CIS countries, our region and the Middle East. And therefore, in the future any regional politician will directly establish contacts with leaders of other countries. Therefore, we should have the agenda with Iran and any other country, both economically and politically."
The expert named the other purpose of the Iranian President’s visit the expansion of cultural and humanitarian cooperation between the two countries. "It is too early to talk about global projects, because the problem is that the sanctions has not removed completely yet. This is a serious and large-scale problem for Iran, besides, Iran has been disconnected from SWIFT. It is very difficult, because Iran had no opportunity to carry out bank transfers, and to start any large-scale projects and needs to solve these problems and get access to financial markets and trading platforms. Since Kyrgyzstan is a member of the global economy, Iran needs in these tools to improve the economic cooperation," Osmonbetov added.
The expert stressed that the key reason of Rouhani’s visit to Kyrgyzstan is to find partners, which will support Iran in the Central Asian region. "The reason is that Iran is in isolation mode and needs to get out of it," the expert said.
Why Kyrgyzstan, but not other countries of Central Asia?
Mars Sariev thinks that the Iranian President understands that Kyrgyzstan is a very important geopolitical point of Central Asia. "I think that Iran is interested in security issues, combating terrorism, the body politic. But the Iranian leader, probably, would also like to uncover untapped potential after the lifting of sanctions. Now huge opportunities have been opening up. And from this point of view, Iran would use Kyrgyzstan as a door to Asia and Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan would be a very convenient place, as Kyrgyzstan treats Iran very tolerantly and due to tolerance and democracy in our country, the Iranians feel themselves in Kyrgyzstan, as elsewhere in Central Asia," Sariev said.
Also, the analyst believes that the Iranians appreciate Kyrgyzstan for its potential, opportunities and as a center of their political interests.
Kabar News Agency