Remarks at the Dedication of the New Embassy Compound Bishkek
Secretary of State
U.S. Embassy Bishkek
October 31, 2015
AMBASSADOR GWALTNEY: Good afternoon. Salamatsyzdarby. Secretary of State Kerry, Foreign Minister Abdyldaev, my fellow ambassadors and distinguished guests: It is my great honor and privilege to welcome you to the long-awaited opening of our new chancery.
The American Embassy in the Kyrgyz Republic has come a very long way. Our initial embassy was a kindergarten here in Bishkek, and we very quickly outgrew it. When I served in the Kyrgyz Republic for the first time in 1999, I felt fortunate to work in our current embassy building which was new at that time. It was great. Everyone had decent office space, new computers and printers, and for the first time in my Foreign Service career all of the furniture in our offices matched. (Laughter.) I think others had the same experience.
That second embassy was modular, meaning that it was built in the United States, shipped to Bishkek, and assembled here. However, as our partnership with the Kyrgyz Republic deepened and our cooperation expanded, we quickly outgrew that office space and needed a new chancery that would represent the strength and the importance of our bilateral relationship with the Government and the people of the Kyrgyz Republic.
Now we have a chancery that is built on this site and is anchored in Kyrgyz soil. This building represents an investment in the future of our bilateral relationship. We are very proud of this new chancery. I am delighted that my colleagues will work in an embassy where they will be safe, secure, and have a comfortable environment that will facilitate their creativity and efficiency.
And my embassy colleagues and I are deeply honored that Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Erlan Abdyldaev are here today to dedicate our new chancery. So I would like to begin by inviting the Foreign Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic, the Honorable Erlan Abdyldaev, to the podium. Mr. Minister, vam slovo. (Applause.)
FOREIGN MINISTER ABDYLDAEV: (In Kyrgyz.)
Dear Mr. Secretary of State, Madam Ambassador, and embassy staff, ladies and gentlemen: I am pleased to congratulate our American colleagues with the opening of a new building of the United States Embassy in the Kyrgyz Republic. I wish the staff working in this modern compound not only to gain new convenience and peace, but also to be motivated to bring new success stories in the development of friendly, mutually beneficial, and equal relationship between the two countries.
As you may know, on December the 27th, 1991, Kyrgyzstan and the United States established diplomatic relations, four months after Kyrgyzstan gained independence. On February the 1st, 1992, the U.S. Embassy (inaudible) opened in Bishkek – Central Asia’s first embassy. Since then, the two countries have established direct links enabling governments and the peoples to build, develop, and deepen systematically bilateral relationship.
Our bilateral cooperation over the years has increased significantly. It covers, among other things, the main directions of international agenda such as strengthening of democratic institutions, market reforms, the fight against global challenges and threats to peace and security, including international terrorism and extremism and drug trafficking. The United States, as American side has repeatedly emphasized it, committed to supporting Kyrgyzstan’s ongoing efforts to ensure the space, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; strengthening stability, security, and economic development.
Taking into account our common values, we have all the prerequisites for moving forward. Of course, these relations should be consistent with the relations with our other international and regional partners, bearing in mind positive experience of cooperation and collaboration. We believe that the time has come to develop an optimal model of relationship between Kyrgyzstan and the United States in full conformity to the principles of equality, mutual respect towards each other’s interests.
Ladies and gentlemen, we appreciate our collaboration with United States of America. Our countries are natural partners in developing, strengthening, and promoting democratic values and ideals. We believe that with goodwill, mutual respect, and equality, we can articulate and resolve the most complex tasks.
Availing this opportunity, I want to express our appreciation to all the international observers, including our American friends, for their positive assessment of the parliamentary elections held on October the 1st. We applied for the first time the modern technologies on the ballot counting, thus allowing all political parties and movements equal opportunities. The voters who came to the voting stations had the right to carry out their constitutional duty freely, cautiously, and without any pressure.
Ladies and gentlemen, four years ago on February the 1st, 2011, the minister of foreign affairs of Kyrgyz Republic took part on the commemorative ceremony of laying the foundation stone on the new U.S. Embassy building, marking the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Kyrgyzstan and United States. I am confident that the creation of the best possible conditions for the embassy staff will serve to strengthen and deepen bilateral relations on a mutually beneficial, equitable manner for the benefit of our peoples and for the enhancement of the effectiveness of our (inaudible) work.
I want to congratulate once again our American colleagues on this important occasion. I wish all the staff of the United States Embassy good health, joy, happiness, and well-being. Thank you. (Applause.)
AMBASSADOR GWALTNEY: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister. Chon rakhmat. And now it is my great honor to present – to ask the Secretary of State John Kerry to say a few words. The embassy staff – I think all of us to a person – are absolutely delighted and honored that Secretary Kerry began his trip to Central Asia here in Bishkek and that he is here to dedicate this new embassy and to open a new chapter in our relationship with the Kyrgyz Republic.
Mr. Secretary, may I invite you to the podium. (Applause.)
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, Ambassador. Thank you very much. Salamatsyzdarby. I’m happy to be here. Thank you very, very much. Whoops, I have a floating microphone here. I want to express my appreciation to everybody. Thank you for sitting out here for a little while.
Mr. Foreign Minister, Erlan, my friend, I’m happy to be here with you. And we had a chance just to catch up for a moment after we arrived. And my Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal, who is here sitting in front, told me that you only get to see the mountains on your second visit to – (laughter). But I can see over there. You see the little outline, so I’m cheating the proverb. (Laughter.) It was a good excuse, very creative. (Laughter.)
Ambassador Gwaltney, thank you for your leadership. Thanks for the outstanding job that you and your team are doing here in representing the United States of America in Bishkek in the Kyrgyz Republic. And we are really – I am personally very excited to be here in this very beautiful country. I know it is almost insulting to be here for such a short time; it whets my appetite. And someday, God willing, when Syria, North Korea, and Yemen, and a few other places quiet down, we’ll have more time to travel.
But this is a very important relationship, which is why I wanted to come here and it’s why I wanted to begin my visit here. And your excellencies all, thank you for coming to join us in the official opening of this very important and beautiful building. We – I want to congratulate all those who have been involved in helping to bring the construction of this building to a successful conclusion, and I hope you’ll all agree that the effort has been worthwhile. I don’t know if our security people will allow it, I don’t know what the rules are, but I was sitting here thinking I want to see some trees along these walls here, and maybe we can do some things that aesthetically grow it as we go forward.
But this new chancery looks great on its own. It’s a superb building. It is brilliantly designed. It’s bright; it’s open; it’s energy-efficient. And it’s going to give our team working here the space that the people who work here need and deserve, and we’re proud of that. This is, in short, a 21st century embassy with which, Mr. Foreign Minister, to implement a 21st century partnership. And we look forward to that.
It really symbolizes – and I want you to think about this. It really does symbolize in a very meaningful way the depth of the relationship and our commitment to a close and cooperative relationship with the Kyrgyz Government and the people. Diplomacy is about people. Relationships are about people. And we want our shared interests and the mutual respect of our people and our countries to define this relationship well into the future.
We all know that the United States was among the very first nations to recognize the Kyrgyz Republic’s independence. And as Erlan said, that was 24 years ago. It’s hard to believe now that so much time has passed so quickly. Since then we have proudly, staunchly supported this country’s independence, its sovereignty, its territorial integrity. And I can assure you that is not going to change.
It was only a couple of months ago after independence – after – a couple of months after the independence itself 24 years ago, obviously, that we first raised our flag at the U.S. Embassy building. I didn’t know it was a kindergarten at first. Maybe that’s appropriate for some diplomats running around. (Laughter.) But it was on Erkendik Boulevard, and I am told that understands and translates, appropriately enough, into Freedom Boulevard.
In subsequent years, as our countries began to work together, obviously the needs of our embassy grew. And so in 1998, we moved to this, to the current location. And over time, our engagement has continued to expand and to include more arenas of shared concern and of endeavor: security, economic issues, the environment, education, people-to-people exchanges. We have an extraordinary number of students going from here to the United States to study. And all of this helps us to know each other and to understand each other better, which is what diplomacy and being in the Foreign Service is all about.
The fact is we’re really only just beginning. And in historical terms, obviously 25 years is the blink of an eye. I want you to know that just as we have built this embassy, we are definitively planning to build a stronger relationship and to find the ways to do it.
In the process of our growth and development of the relationship, obviously our locally based diplomatic staff has also continued to grow. We started with just a few people, and now we employ more than 300. And the majority of those are Kyrgyz citizens, as it should be. Some of them are here with us. And I just want to say how extremely grateful I am personally, President Obama is, and Americans are for the fact that you are willing to work with us, because your being with us is really at the core of helping us to be able to build real ties to the people here. And every day you help us to promote our goals of shared prosperity, our goals of mutual security based on a strong, democratic set of institution, and obviously support for the rule of law.
So before closing so we can get to the official job of cutting the ribbon, let me just mention how proud I am. I’ve been a longtime advocate for environmental responsibility all my life really. One of the first things I did when I returned from being a soldier – a sailor, actually, in the war in Vietnam – was to become involved in America’s environmental movement – way back, 1970s. I’m dating myself today. But for years I’ve been advocating for sustainability. And now with the challenge of climate change, we’re all about to meet in Paris next month. Well, not quite next month, a day or so away from next month. But we will be looking for a global commitment to deal with this challenge of climate change which involves all of us. And there’s so much that can be gained in terms of responsible energy policy in the design of buildings. And that’s one of the things we’re really proudest of in this building, because this building is a extraordinary model of green design and sustainability. It incorporates a number of environmental technologies that include harvesting rainwater, waste water treatment, solar panels. And these characteristics have not gone unnoticed. The new chancery received a silver rating on leadership in energy and environmental design, and I’m very proud of that. I was about to say that this building ought to be considered a model for the region, but frankly, it’s a model for anywhere. And I hope the Kyrgyz Republic will be proud of that fact as we are. It’s the kind of thoughtful design, respectful of nature, that we need to see more of in every building that is built anywhere in the world.
So my colleagues and friends, thank you so much for joining us for this moment of celebration. We not only celebrate the opening of the building; but even more than that, this is an occasion to affirm the special relationship between two countries that may be very different in many respects on the surface. But in terms of in our heart and in our gut and in our head as we think about life and the kind of governments we want and the way we want our people treated, we are very similar. We both care and we both are champions of democratic values. We are both builders of peace and both committed to a future of opportunity and of promise for our people. I hope this building will last, whether it’s a hundred years or way into a future that we can’t measure; but more than that, I want our relationship to last way beyond the length of this building and the next building and beyond.
Thank you for being here. Thank you for being part of this celebration. May God bless this building and all who work in it and the Kyrgyz Republic and the United States of America. Thank you. (Applause.)
AMBASSADOR GWALTNEY: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. We are also honored to have with us today Ambassador Will Moser, who is the principal deputy director of the Office of Overseas Building Operations at the Department of State, the office that had responsibility for building this beautiful chancery. Ambassador Moser, would you join us? Mr. Secretary, Mr. Minister, shall we go and cut the ribbon.
(The ribbon was cut.)
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