Kyrgyzstan prepares to seal closure of US airbase

By bne IntelliNews May 22, 2013

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The Kyrgyz government has approved draft legislation denouncing the agreement on the US transit centre at Bishkek's Manas International Airport, President Almazbek Atambayev said on May 21, as Kyrgyzstan continues to seal closer cooperation with Russia.

Prime Minister Zhantoro Satybaldiyev has now signed a government resolution on the issue, as the government prepares to close down the US air base when the current lease expires in 2014. The draft law has now been submitted to the parliament for consideration, state news agency Kabar reports.

Adoption of the law by the government brings Bishkek a step closer to closing down the Manas airbase, which is used by US and coalition forces to support operations in Afghanistan. Previous governments pledged several times to shut down the base, but later relented, with the presence of US forces seen as one of Bishkek's main negotiating tools to leverage cash and other support from both Washington and Moscow.

However, Kyrgyzstan is in the midst of agreeing several deals with Russian state-controlled companies, which are vital to the Bishkek's bid to stabilize the country following two revolutions in recent years. That growing relationship appears to have finally sealed the fate of the base. Its closure will leave Russia as the only foreign power with a military base in Kyrgyzstan.

While Bishkek will lose the $60m the US pays each year for the base, Atambayev said on May 21 that Kyrgyzstan will compensate for the loss of revenue through other economic projects, according to AP. Kyrgyz officials have already outlined plans to set up an international transit and logistics centre at Manas, powered by Russian investment.

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