[DEBATE] : Kyrgyz U-turn on US base mooted
riaz.tayob at gmail.com
Wed Mar 4 18:28:34 GMT 2009
Kyrgyz U-turn on US base mooted
US soldiers inside a plane arrive from Afghanistan at the airbase in Manas
Thousands of US soldiers pass through the base en route to Afghanistan
Kyrgyzstan's president has told the BBC "the doors are not closed"
concerning talks over the US airbase which is due to close.
The Manas base is critical to US and Nato operations in Afghanistan.
Kurmanbek Bakiyev said negotiations with Washington would have to take
a different format, and cover new conditions of use.
His latest remarks, the first since announcing the closure last month,
have yet to draw an American response.
President Bakiyev said the old agreement on the use of the base was no
longer valid but Kyrgyzstan was open to negotiation.
"We are ready for any new proposals from the US government aimed at
stabilising the situation in Afghanistan."
Our partners - be it the United States or Russia - should listen to
what we have to say
President Kurmanbek Bakiyev
The US has already said that it would look at what it could offer to
keep the base open - but was not prepared to pay any price.
Kyrgyz MPs have already passed a bill on the closure, and the US is
actively exploring alternative supply routes.
Kyrgyzstan's parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of closing the
strategic US air base.
President Bakiyev has suggested that peace talks be held in Kyrgystan
under the auspices of the United Nations between President Hamid
Karzai of Afghanistan and Taliban leaders.
"We should be respected more," he said in his BBC interview. "Our
partners - be it the United States or Russia - should listen to what
we have to say."
See map of existing and possible supply routes in the region
"We decided to close the base because our proposals have been ignored
for years and I don't consider such relations as being equal."
Mr Bakiyev said at the time of the announcement that the base would be
closed because Washington had refused to pay more rent for it.
Thousands of US soldiers pass through the Manas base every month on
their way in and out of Afghanistan.
It is also home to the large tanker aircraft that are used for
airborne refuelling of fighter planes on combat missions, and it
serves as a key supply hub.
MANAS AIRBASE IN FIGURES
Two hours' flight time from Kabul
15,000 US soldiers pass through every month on their way in and out of
Houses 1,000 US soldiers alongside 100 Spanish and French troops
Home of large tanker aircraft used for in-air refuelling of fighter planes
3,294 refuelling missions flown in 2008 providing 11,419 aircraft with
fuel over the skies of Afghanistan
For the US, the decision comes at a critical moment, as the new
administration of President Barack Obama plans a sharp rise in the
number of its troops in Afghanistan.
With supply lines to Afghanistan via Pakistan increasingly threatened
by militant attacks, Washington has intensified talks with other
countries in the region.
Uzbek President Islam Karimov has said the US will be allowed to
transport non-military supplies through his country, which has rail
links with Afghanistan.
The US has also reached similar deals with Russia and Kazakhstan.
Washington used to have an air base in Uzbekistan that served troops
operating in Afghanistan.
But Uzbek authorities closed it in 2005 after criticism from the US
and EU over a crackdown on a mass protest in the town of Andijan.
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