Washington briefing: U.S. seeks to keep Kyrgyzstan airbase

by Emil Sanamyan

Published: Saturday June 20, 2009

Kurmanbek Bakiyev.  . Wikipedia

Washington - President Obama sent a letter to Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiyev emphasizing the importance of bilateral security ties, the Kyrgyz government reported on June 11, according to news agencies.

The letter was meant as a fresh appeal for the Central Asian nation to reverse its decision to close a U.S. air base on its soil that has been used in support of Afghanistan operations. Last February, Kyrgyzstan gave the United States six months to close the base after receiving a $2 billion aid package from Russia.

During a regional summit meeting in Yekatirinburg, Russia, on June 16, Mr. Bakiyev pledged continued cooperation with the United States on Afghanistan security.

Paul Quinn-Judge, the Bishkek-based analyst for the International Crisis Group, a Brussels think tank, told Eurasianet.org on June 17 that current expectations are that the U.S. base would stay open in spite of an earlier decision to close it by August 18.

Mr. Bakiyev is seen as hedging his bets, as he faces an election contest on July 22.

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