Japarov Misses CIS Summit, Attends Trilateral Meetings with Putin and Rahmon During CICA Summit
Author:Caspian Policy Center
Oct 18, 2022
As the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) intergovernmental organization gathered for an informal summit on October 7 in Saint Petersburg, Russia, the President of Kyrgyzstan, Sadyr Japarov, was notably missing at the summit. Despite speculation about what Kyrgyzstan’s missing the summit meant, especially for its relationship with Russia, spokesperson for President Japarov, Erbol Sultanbayev, informed the media that his absence was ‘due to the busy work schedule of the head of state’.
Moreover, after missing the CIS summit, on October 9, President Japarov canceled the joint military drills of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), less than a day before they were due to start on the territory of Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan’s Defense Ministry did not specify the reason for cancelling the ‘Indestructible Brotherhood 2022' command and staff exercises.
As the summit coincided with President Vladimir Putin’s birthday, Sultanbaev stated: “Secretary of State Suyunbek Kasmambetov was sent from the Kyrgyz side to convey the presidential message of congratulations on the occasion of the 70th birthday of Russian President Vladimir Putin,” suggesting that Kyrgyzstan still wished to maintain cordial relations with Russia.
Meanwhile, during the summit, Vladimir Putin signed a decree awarding the President of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon, the Order of Merit for the Fatherland, 3rd class, “for great personal contribution to the strengthening of relations of strategic partnership and alliance between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Tajikistan, as well as in ensuring regional stability and security.”
Following the decree, Kyrgyzstani authorities expressed their displeasure at the award, with Foreign Ministry Press Secretary Chingiz Kustebaev posting on Facebook: “It is interesting what kind of regional security one can talk about when from year to year the actions of the Tajik leadership in the region undermine peace and harmony among the peoples of the countries of Central Asia.” Such tension comes following deadly border clashes between the two countries in which 40 Tajik citizens and 59 Kyrgyz citizens were reported to be killed from the violence.
Prior to missing the CIS Informal Summit, Kyrgyzstan had begun to demonstrate that it would no longer defer to Russia. President Japarov had already made President Putin wait in the past: on September 15, on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, a video surfaced in which Putin was seen arriving unexpectedly earlier than Japarov to their planned meeting, a stark contrast to previous meetings in which Putin would be the one to arrive later. After waiting for Japarov, who eventually arrived late and shook hands with Putin, this video sparked media reactions, where many users expressed the symbolism of this moment in terms of shifting regional power structures.
Despite missing the CIS summit, Japarov left for Astana, Kazakhstan, on October 12, to participate in the summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA).
On the sidelines of the CICA summit, Japarov attended a trilateral meeting with Putin and Tajikistan’s President Rahmon, during which the heads of state discussed the current Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border conflict, said Yury Ushakov, Putin’s aide. According to Kyrgystan’s Press Secretary Sultanbaev, the joint meeting was initiated by Putin, who expressed readiness to provide assistance to resolve the border issues between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Significantly, as reported by the Kyrgyz independent news agency, President Rahmon and President Japarov did not shake hands and didn’t greet each other during the meeting. Putin then delivered a short speech, in which he stated that both Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are Russia’s close allies
"We work in the framework of international organizations very closely; we are strategic partners. A million citizens of Kyrgyzstan live, study, and work in Russia, and two million citizens of Tajikistan also work and live in Russia," Putin said. "We have very close relations in a range of areas. The trade grew with both countries by around 45 percent last year and 20-30 percent in the first 7 months of this year," he added. "Of course, we are interested in that such conditions for consistent development are retained or created where necessary. I am very glad to have a meeting in such format," Putin concluded before the meeting continued behind closed doors.
Despite current and past successive changes of government, Kyrgyzstan has consistently pursued deeper ties with Russia: Kyrgyzstan participates in all the Russian-led integration projects, including the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, and the Eurasian Economic Union. However, it is worth noting Kyrgyzstan’s recent absences. While today the Russia-Kyrgyzstan relationship is still intact, it is clear that at least for now, the power dynamics are shifting.