Miscellaneous Matters


Letter to the Chair of the Committee from the Rt Hon William Hague MP, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs: Kyrgyzstan

Thank you for your letter of 25 July, in which you ask whether, in light of recent events, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has any plans to review our arrangements for diplomatic representation in Kyrgyzstan and what our assessment is of how British interests may best be served throughout the region.

I share the Committee’s concern about recent events in Kyrgyzstan. The unrest in April and June was deeply worrying and presented us with significant political and consular challenges.

I believe that our existing network responded very effectively to the exceptional circumstances that they faced. In both April and June we quickly got staff on the ground, including our Astana-based Ambassador, to provide advice and assistance to British nationals. On both occasions our efforts received plaudits from British nationals and the wider international community. Our team played an integral part in the evacuation of foreign nationals from the southern city of Osh, and ensured support and counselling was available for those in need. Since the crisis broke our Ambassador has visited Bishkek four times and has met President Otunbaeva and her Deputies. He also liaised closely with Special Representatives of the EU, Organization for Security & Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and UN in Bishkek.

The Department for International Development office in Bishkek co-ordinated the UK’s humanitarian response to recent events and represented the UK at an international donor conference in July. Staff from DFID and from our Embassy in Astana jointly monitored the Constitutional referendum in June and have co-ordinated resources to enable further UK support for electoral reform and observation. In addition, the OSCE’s Centre in Bishkek is very ably led by an FCO secondee, Andrew Tesorière.

Our Ambassador, members of his staff from the British Embassy in Astana and from the British Embassy Office in Almaty frequently visit Bishkek to ensure bilateral interests are actively maintained. In Bishkek itself, in addition to DFID’s office we also have an experienced Honorary Consul. I believe these arrangements are appropriate and serve our interests well, assisting British nationals (approximately 200 are registered) and supporting British business (exports amount to nearly £3 million per annum).

The UK has significant interests in Central Asia as a whole. Energy supplies and security are particularly important, with Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and, to a lesser extent, Uzbekistan having the potential to become significant suppliers of energy to European markets. We also have an interest in regional stability, particularly given the linkages to Afghanistan. UK commercial interests in the region-notably in Kazakhstan, where we are among the top five foreign investors-are also significant. We are working closely with UK Trade and Investment to support British business and identify opportunities to further develop our commercial links. We also remain committed to providing a professional, efficient consular service to British nationals throughout the region. I will, of course, keep these arrangements under review. Once the result of the Spending Review is known, I expect to consider how the UK’s diplomatic network can best respond to changing circumstances and priorities and meet our needs within available resources.

In the meantime I am satisfied that our existing network of Embassies, drawing on cross-governmental expertise, provides an appropriate means of protecting and developing British interests in Kyrgyzstan and the region.

2 September 2010

Prepared 14th September 2011