BISHKEK, January 17 (RIA Novosti) – The United States and Kyrgyzstan are continuing talks on the future of a US military transit center at Manas international airport, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake said 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,” Blake, who arrived in Bishkek to attend bilateral Kyrgyz-US consultations, told reporters.
The US diplomat stressed that the center remains a key resupply facility for international forces fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, adding that Washington supports the idea of creating a purely civilian transportation hub in the airport after the US lease expires in 2014.
US officials have given the Kyrgyz authorities their recommendations on this issue, Blake said.
The United States began logistics operations at Manas airport near the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek in 2001 in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, to provide support for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.
The Kyrgyz authorities have long sought the US facility’s closure due to a series of incidents involving US military personnel at the Manas base, disagreements over the rent and, allegedly, in response to Russian offers of long-term aid in exchange for closing the US facility.
Shortly after assuming his post in November 2011, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev stated that Bishkek would not prolong the lease contract with Washington saying that he did not want a third country carrying out a retaliatory strike against the civilian airport.
He repeatedly said that Manas airport will be a purely civilian facility after 2014.
“No military component should be left at the [Manas] airport," Atambayev reiterated during the meeting with Blake on Wednesday.