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BISHKEK, April 03. /ITAR-TASS/. Cooperation with the United States will be based on national interests, Kyrgyzstan’s President Almazbek Atambayev has said.
“Regional security is a priority for Kyrgyzstan,” Atambayev told a meeting with US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal on Thursday.
For her part, Biswal thanked Kyrgyzstan for supporting the NATO-led coalition’s efforts in Afghanistan and praised the Manas transit centre for its contribution to ensuring security in Afghanistan and in Central Asia.
The transit centre at Manas (former Manas Airbase) has political and economic significance for Kyrgyzstan-US cooperation. It was opened in December 2001 to support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
In 2011 Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev said the Central Asian republic would not renew an agreement to extend the lease of the facility.
Manas has served both as a transit point for NATO troops and as a base for aircraft, including tankers used to resupply combat planes operating in Afghanistan.
According to official data, US tanker aircraft have flown more than 33,000 missions from Manas, refuelling over 135,000 aircraft.
Transport planes are still ferrying soldiers to and from the base, as part of the phased drawdown of the NATO-led International Security Force in Afghanistan.
In 2009 Kyrgyzstan's previous leadership said it intended to close the base. After lengthy negotiations the parties agreed to turn the base into a transit centre.
In 2013 the Kyrgyz government and parliament worked out and approved a bill under which US servicemen are obliged to leave Kyrgyzstan by July 11, 2014.
At present, facilities at Manas are being dismantled. Equipment and hardware are being withdrawn.
Kyrgyzstan’s authorities intend to attract investors, including Russians, for creating a large logistic and transport centre at Manas.
Russia also maintains a military airbase outside Bishkek, at Kant, which was established in 2003 under the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation. Russia and Kyrgyzstan signed an agreement in September to extend Russia’s lease of the facility to 2032.