Thursday, January 17, 2013 -
Discussions over the U.S. lease of the Kyrgyz airbase Manas are still in progress, U.S. envoy Robert Blake said in Bishkek on Thursday.
“We are currently discussing the future of the Transit Center in Manas, but I would rather not speculate on the possible outcome of these discussions,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFERL) reported U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Blake as saying.
“We also discussed [with Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev] the wide range of U.S. assistance programs to the Kyrgyz Republic, which includes more than $40 million over the last year and more than $1.3 billion since 1992.”
The U.S. paid the Kyrgyz government over $200 million in 2014 to lease the Manas airbase, which is critical for transporting soldiers and materiel into and out of Afghanistan. Though NATO operations are scheduled to end in Afghanistan next year, the U.S. intends to keep a military presence in the country to assist Kabul with the transition.
Atambayev has repeatedly stated that the Kyrgyz government is not interested in renewing the Manas lease, instead preferring to transform the base into a regional transportation hub. Kyrgyz delegates met with Russian officials last week to discuss cooperation on this project.
Russia, a major trade partner and source of development aid for Kyrgyzstan, has also been leaning heavily on Atambayev to refuse the U.S.’ lease renewal request.