Kyrgyz PM vows support for Russia's airbase

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BISHKEK, February 2 (RIA Novosti, Yulia Orlova) - Kyrgyz Prime Minister Felix Kulov said Thursday the government would provide support for the Russian air base in Kant (about 20 miles west of Bishkek).

"The government of Kyrgyzstan will provide every support for the military airfield and create [favorable] conditions for servicemen," he said, adding that the government was also seeking developing contacts between base's personnel and Kyrgyz soldiers and officers.

Kulov said: "This military airfield must be perceived as a constituent part of Kyrgyzstan's defense. It makes us confident that everything above our heads is protected."

The Kant air base opened in October 2003 to enable Russian jets to provide close air support for ground units of CSTO member states (Collective Security Treaty Organization: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan) against potential security threats.

Kulov's statement recalls recent discussions in the local press related to the future of the Russian military base at Kant and the American one in Gansi, located at Manas airport in the country capital. Most media emphasized positive aspects of Russian military presence but was doubtful about the benefits of the American military base.

Last month Kyrgyzstan notified the United States about proposed changes to an agreement on the status of the U.S. airbase in Kyrgyzstan, established in late 2001 under the mandate of the UN as part of Operation Enduring Freedom conducted by coalition forces in Afghanistan after the September 11 attack.

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