WASHINGTON, September 25 (Itar-Tass) — The United States has refuses to clarify its plans regarding the future of the Manas military base at Bishkek airport, arguing that it is awaiting Kyrgyzstan’s considerations on this matter.
In an interview with Itar-Tass on Monday, an official of the US Department of State in the light of the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Kyrgyzstan made a number of comments on the issues about whether Washington is interested in maintaining its military presence at the Manas base also 2014, and whether the United States wants to conclude with Bishkek a new agreement of the facility lease. The State Department representative sad that the United States does not intend to speculate on the possible outcome of the discussions on the Transit Centre. “We need to hear what our Kyrgyz partners have to say on this issue,” the US official said. She added, referring to earlier statements made by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that “many countries are interested in a stable Afghanistan and the future of the region.”
The Transit Centre is the current name of the Manas base, which has been functioning since the end of 2001 and is used by the United States to support the operation in Afghanistan. The most recent agreement on the military facility lease was concluded by the United States and Kyrgyzstan in July 2009 for a 5-year period. This agreement provides both for its automatic extension for a year, if the parties have no objection, and its early termination. In the latter case, a relevant notification must be sent six months in advance. Washington pays Bishkek 60 million US dollars per year for the use of the Centre.
The US State Department official said that the current lease agreement is valid “until July 2014.” President of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambayev has “undertaken to fully implement the agreement,” said the diplomat.
According to her, the Transit Centre, from the US viewpoint, “is an important logistics hub” for the operation in Afghanistan, it is “Kyrgyzstan’s wonderful contribution to the international coalition efforts.” “We greatly appreciate the Kyrgyzstan government’s support of the coalition efforts in Afghanistan, its commitment to regional security,” the US State Department official said.
On November 8, 2011, newly elected President Almazbek Atambayev announced that he would attempt to close the base when its lease runs out in 2014. In September 2012, Atambayev repeated his view that “Manas should be a civil airport” which “should not be a military base for any country.” He reaffirmed his stance that starting from 2014, Manas airport will only be used to transport passengers.
The joint statement adopted on the results of talks between Putin and Atambayev said that Moscow “supports Kyrgyzstan’s intention to transform the Transit Centre at Manas airport into a civilian facility, free of the military component, after the mission of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (ISAF) is complete.” Russia also expressed its “willingness to study the issue of the establishment at Manas airport of civilian transport infrastructure for servicing air cargo transportation from Asia to Europe and back.”