Monday, June 15, 2009

Kyrgyz, Russian leaders to discuss fate of US base: source

Bishkek (AFP) June 15, 2009: The presidents of Kyrgyzstan and Russia will discuss the future of a key US airbase at a meeting on Sunday in Moscow, a source in the Kyrgyz government told AFP.
Kyrgyzstan has ordered US forces to quit the Manas airbase, which is used to support operations in Afghanistan, by August 18 in a decision that was widely seen as having been made under Russian pressure.
Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will discuss the future of the US presence when they meet on the sidelines of a regional summit in Moscow on Sunday, the Kyrgyz government source said.
"It is expected that during the bilateral meeting there will be discussion of the continued presence at the Bishkek airport of the US military base," the source told AFP ahead of the meeting, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Moscow denies playing any role in Kyrgyzstan's decision to close the base, although Bakiyev announced the decision in Moscow in February the same day that Russia unveiled a huge aid package to the impoverished Central Asian country.
Bakiyev is expected in Moscow on Sunday for a meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), a regional security body consisting of Russia and six other former Soviet republics.
The Kyrgyz leader is also expected to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Monday in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg. Karzai recently appealed to Bakiyev to allow the US base to remain open.
Located outside the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, Manas airbase is used to ferry tens of thousands of troops in and out of Afghanistan each year.
The loss of Manas would deal a major blow to coalition military efforts in Afghanistan at a time when US President Barack Obama has pledged to boost the campaign there against the Islamist militants of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

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