KYRGYZ CLOSURE OF U.S. BASE ‘FINAL’
COMMENTARY ARCHIVES, 6 Feb 2009
Krygystan’s government has said it will not go back on its decision to close US air base on its territory, despite Washington insisting that talks over the facility are continuing.
The Manas base in the former Soviet republic is used to supply US troops fighting in Afghanistan.
"The decision has been made," Aibek Sultangaziyev, a Krygyz government spokesman, said on Friday
"The US embassy and the [Kyrgyz] foreign ministry are exchanging opinions on this, but there are no discussions on keeping the base."
Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said on Thursday that the US is still hopeful that the base could be kept open.
"We’re still very much engaged," he said.
The original deal between the US and Kyrgyzstan gives Washington six months to shut down the base after being informed of its closure by the government.
The Kyrgyz government’s remarks came despite parliament not voting on the proposal until next week.
Approval is seen as a formality as the chamber is controlled by supporters of the president.
"The issue is now with parliament which must cancel the agreement on the base with the United States," Sultangaziyev said.
Kurmanbek Bakiyev, Kyrgystan’s president, announced that the base outside the capital, Bishkek, would close after he secured $2bn of Russian aid during talks with Dmitry Medvedev, his Russian counterpart, in Moscow.
However, Igor Chudinov, the Kyrgyz prime minister, has denied that the move was linked to Russia’s aid package.
"Talks on Russian aid have been going on for two years, and they were in no way related to the issue of the removal of the air base from Kyrgyzstan," he said.
He said that the Kyrgyz government did not approve of the way the war in Afghanistan was being conducted.
Whitman also said it was unlikely that Russia was attempting to undermine the US presence in the region.
"It certainly doesn’t make any sense for Russia or any other country in the region to try to undermine the international effort to bring stability to Central Asia," he said.
"They [Russia] have been very consistent in their public statements in the past about supporting the international effort to bring stability in Afghanistan as well as the region."
About 30,000 more US soldiers are expected to be sent to Afghanistan in 2009 as the administration of Barack Obama, the US president, plans to shift its military focus away from Iraq.
Tajikistan, another central Asian nation, has offered its airspace for the transport of non-military equipment to Afghanistan as the US and military alliance search for alternative supply routes.
"The [Tajik] president confirmed his readiness to offer thecountry’s airspace for non-military Nato supplies bound for Afghanistan," Tracey Ann Jacobson, US ambassador to Dushanbe, said on Friday.
"This necessity emerged after a decision was made to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan."
Supply lines to Nato and US-led troops in Afghanistan have been hit by attacks on convoys in neighbouring Pakistan and the closure of the Manas base would cause further problemsbility.
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