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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

No Decision Yet on New Russian Airbase in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan has considered, but is yet to make a final decision on, a new Russian airbase in the country.

In an interview with TASS, Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov discussed the status of negotiations over a second Russian airbase in his country. He stated, "We have considered this issue with Russia before I took office as president. But no final decision has been made so far."

President Jeenbekov linked the negotiations to the security situation in Afghanistan. He noted that the conflict there requires "joint measures to ensure security in the Central Asian region." He added that Bishkek's "position on setting up another Russian military base in the country’s south is based on the need to form collective response forces to deal with threats coming from Afghanistan, such as terrorism, extremism and drug trafficking."

He did not offer any further specifics on where the base could be located, though the two sides have discussed centering a base near Osh, in the south, in the past. Last year, renewed discussions were held on the military base. In July 2017, then-Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev said, "This issue was on the agenda of discussions with the Russian side during the talks on terms of the first base. But this decision is to be taken by Russia, it is to decide, as this would require large-scale investments.

"We had a dispute when we talked about the timing of the deployment of the base in Kyrgyzstan. If we have a base, then we need to deploy on the border with Tajikistan, because there are many problems," he said.

Russia currently operates an airbase near Bishkek, in Kant. Previously, Kyrgyzstan also hosted the U.S. military at the Manas Transit Center, but the American deployment ended in 2014. President Jeenbekov praised the Russian deployment at Kant, saying, it "plays an important role in ensuring aviation security."

In exchange for establishing a second Russian base, Bishkek could be expected to seek significant economic incentives, in addition to a boost in security assistance.

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