UNHCR chief wraps up visit to Kyrgyzstan, urges support for reconciliation

News Stories, 1 July 2010

© UNHCR/A.Rummery
UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres talks to returned refugees and IDPs in Jalalabad, southern Kyrgyzstan.

JALALABAD, Kyrgyzstan, July 1 (UNHCR) UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres continued a visit to southern Kyrgyzstan on Thursday by meeting returned refugees and victims of conflict in the city of Jalalabad before returning to the capital, Bishkek.

Guterres met families in Lenina and Ozernaya Streets in central Jalalabad who had returned to their burnt out homes and were living in tents provided by UNHCR. They had begun to clear debris and rubble from their homes but were concerned about the coming winter. Guterres also saw distribution of relief items including jerry-cans, blankets and tents being carried out by UNCHR partner ACTED.

Many who met Guterres appealed for better security. They spoke of feeling unsafe and of their fears about allowing their children outside. Others were concerned about having lost personal documents and their difficulties in replacing them.

"We want peace and we want our houses rebuilt," one resident said. "We want safety for our children, especially our sons, who are young men, so they can go outside and work," said one woman.

Guterres also visited parts of Jalalabad inhabited by ethnic Krygyz victims of last month's violence, including some whose businesses had been burned down. He also met the deputy governor and mayor of Jalalabad.

Speaking afterwards at a press conference in Bishkek he spoke of the common desire for peace among all those he had met. "Everybody said 'we want peace'. Nobody said 'we want revenge', including those people whose family members were killed," Guterres told journalists.

Guterres said it was important that calm prevailed so that reconciliation efforts could gain ground. "It is essential to reach out to the two communities and to make both understand that they've lived together for centuries and it is essential that they go on living together in peace," he said.

Guterres also pledged UNHCR's support to Kyrgyzstan in providing effective humanitarian aid distributed in a non-discriminatory manner. "We are at the disposal of the government to offer assistance to ensure protection concerns are taken into account in any reconstruction effort," he said.

High Commissioner Guterres met again with President Rosa Otunbayeva on Thursday after his visit to the south. He said he was encouraged by the President's strong commitment to reconciliation.

"Many people are living in tents near their destroyed houses waiting for a solution to their plight. It is the moment for a massive mobilization of solidarity for this population both in terms of humanitarian aid and to help the country with governance and economic development to help create the conditions for national reconciliation," he said.

By Ariane Rummery, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan