Russian aid to Kyrgyzstan not linked to U.S. airbase closure

Russian financial assistance to Kyrgyzstan is not linked to the Central Asian country's decision to close a U.S. military base, Ria-Novosti quoted a deputy Russian foreign minister as saying Wednesday.

US airbase Manas in Kyrgyzstan

"We do not think these two events are connected," Grigory Karasin told journalists, adding that the decision to close the Manas base had been made independently by the Kyrgyz government.

"Russia and Kyrgyzstan are very close countries cooperating in many spheres. We were able to provide aid which could possibly help Kyrgyzstan get through a critical economic and social phase," he said, adding that the loan was the result of "many months of work by our ministries."

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev said in Moscow on Tuesday he would demand the closure of the airbase, used to support antiterrorism operations in neighboring Afghanistan, citing Washington's refusal to discuss higher rental payments and its reluctance to address the 2006 killing by a U.S. serviceman of a local.

Kyrgyzstan's government said Wednesday it had submitted documentation on canceling the airbase agreement with the United States to the country's parliament for approval.

At talks in the Kremlin on Tuesday, Bakiyev secured deals writing off Kyrgyzstan's $180 million debt to Moscow, and the promise of a $2 billion discounted loan and $150 million in financial aid.

Konstantin Kosachyov, the head of the Russian lower house's international affairs committee, said on Wednesday that the Kyrgyz government's decision to close the American base was in line with the mood of the people in the former Soviet republic and that he believed the Kyrgyz parliament would agree to annul the airbase agreement.

U.S. President Barack Obama has announced plans to considerably increase troops in Afghanistan. The U.S. airbase was set up in 2001 as a transit point for NATO supplies to the international coalition in Afghanistan and now houses more than 1,000 military personnel.

Russia backed the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan, but its relations with NATO have deteriorated since over the bloc's ongoing eastward expansion and more recently an armed conflict with Georgia. Russia also has a military base in Kyrgyzstan under a post-Soviet security pact.

Source: AFP

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