Kyrgyz Unrest threatens all of Central Asia, Nazarbayev says

    By Raushan Nurshayeva
    Violence in Kyrgyzstan could stir ethnic tension in other parts of Central Asia and encourage the growth of drug trafficking and terrorism, Nursultan Nazarbayev said.
    "Chaos and destabilisation in the region play into the hands of criminals engaged in the illegal trade of drugs, arms and human trafficking," Reuters quoted him as saying at a conference in Astana.
    Nazarbayev said tackling poverty and promoting tolerance among different ethnic groups were crucial to maintaining order in the region next to Afghanistan.
    He spoke at a gathering on tolerance and non-discrimination sponsored by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which Kazakhstan is chairing this year.
    Kazakhstan shares a border with Kyrgyzstan, where nearly 300 people -- and possibly hundreds more -- were killed during several days of conflict between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in June.
    "The most poignant consequence of the conflict in Kyrgyzstan is that the seeds of mistrust could be sown between other peoples of the region," Nazarbayev said.
    "A front is weakening in the war against international terrorism and extremism, the front line of which is in neighbouring Afghanistan," he said.
    Kyrgyzstan voted in a referendum on Sunday to create the first parliamentary democracy in Central Asia, a former Soviet region otherwise ruled by authoritarian presidents.
    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned after the vote that parliamentary rule could lead to factionalism, a power grab by extremist groups or even the collapse of Kyrgyzstan, where both Russia and the United States operate military air bases.
    Kazakhstan hopes the recent referendum in Kyrgyzstan will lay the foundations for peace and stability in the country, Nazarbayev said.
    According to preliminary results of the referendum, 91% of Kyrgyz voters approved changes to the constitution that reduce the president's powers and make Kyrgyzstan a parliamentary republic. Voters also endorsed interim leader Roza Otunbayeva as president for the transitional period until December 31, 2011.
    The referendum followed several days of bloody interethnic riots that began in the Central Asian country on June 11. The clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks claimed the lives of more than 280 people, according to government figures. But Kyrgyz officials acknowledge that the real death toll may be 10 times higher.