US Diplomat Robert Blake Arrives in Kyrgyzstan for Talks

A top U.S. diplomat arrived for talks with Kyrgyzstan's interim leaders on Wednesday about defusing a crisis in the Central Asian country, where Washington rents an air base to back its war effort in Afghanistan.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake became the most high-profile American official to visit Kyrgyzstan since violent protests toppled President Kurmanbek Bakiyev on April 7. The U.S. embassy said Blake arrived in the former Soviet republic overnight and Kyrgyz officials said he was due to meet interim leader Roza Otunbayeva for talks later in the day, Reuters informs.

Russia and the U.S., which both have air bases in the Central Asian nation, are reaching out to Otunbayeva, even as ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev holds out in the country’s south. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was the first foreign leader to call Otunbayeva, while U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton followed suit two days later.

“Kyrgyzstan is much more important for U.S.-Russian relations than arms control, which is an agenda of the past,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs magazine. “Kyrgyzstan is a tiny test case whether the U.S. and Russia can find a way to coordinate interests in Eurasia. There could be a new deal.” , BusinessWeek reports.

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