Kyrgyzstan protests over Kazakh minister's toilet cleaning comment

BISHKEK (Reuters) - Kyrgyzstan's foreign ministry has summoned a Kazakh diplomat after Kazakhstan's culture and sports minister said he felt sorry for Kyrgyz migrant labourers having to clean public toilets in Russia.

The Kyrgyz foreign ministry said in a statement late on Tuesday (May 24) that Arystanbek Mukhamediuly's comments were insulting, "had provoked negative reaction from the Kyrgyz public and were not in line with the allied spirit of Kyrgyz-Kazakh relations".

Kazakhstan is far richer than its neighbour, thanks to its vast natural resources, but Kyrgyz rivers are the source of much of its water - a major cause of long-running tensions between the two former Soviet states.

Speaking about Kyrgyzstan in a public meeting this week, Mukhamediuly said he felt "very sorry" that "young girls, our neighbours, are cleaning public toilets" in Moscow and other Russian cities due to a lack of jobs at home.

The foreign ministry also said "biased statements" with regards to Kyrgyzstan have become more frequent in Kazakhstan and appeared in state-run media there.

The two countries, whose populations are predominantly closely related Turkic-speaking peoples, have markedly different political systems.

President Nursultan Nazabayev has run Kazakhstan since 1989, while in Kyrgyzstan public protests have toppled two presidents and led to the establishment of a system where parliament has much stronger powers.