Gates: Kyrgyz airbase not closed issue 2009-02-20 22:13:14   Print

    KRAKOW, Poland, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday that Kyrgyzstan's decision to shut down a U.S. airbase is not a closed issue.

    "I continue to believe that this is not a closed issue and that there remains the potential at least to reopen this issue with the Kyrgyz and perhaps reach a new agreement," Gates told reporters at an informal meeting of NATO defense ministers in Krakow.

    "If we are not able to do that on reasonable terms, then we are developing alternative methods of getting re-supply and people into Afghanistan," he said.

    Gates had said Thursday that Washington is ready to pay more for the use of the Manas base.

    The Kyrgyz parliament on Thursday voted to approve the closure of the Manas base located in the outskirts of the capital Bishkek, and on Friday, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev signed the law terminating the lease agreement with the United States.

    The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry said it has officially notified the U.S. embassy in Bishkek of the closure, allowing 180 days for U.S. troops to leave the base.

    The U.S.-Kyrgyz agreement on the use of the Manas base was signed in 2001, when the United States launched the war on Afghanistan.

    The base today plays an important role in transporting troops and equipment, as well as providing fuel supply for military planes for operations in Afghanistan.

    NATO said Thursday that the closure of the airbase would have no direct effect on the alliance's operations in Afghanistan. NATO spokesman James Appathurai said there is plenty of flexibility in the logistical supply chain for the NATO and its allies.

    About 80 percent of supplies for NATO troops in Afghanistan go through Pakistan and that supply route remains intact. Besides, NATO has full stockpiles inside Pakistan, said Appathurai.

    "It is an inconvenience for allies and one decision to regret. But we can certainly absorb it."

Editor: Mu Xuequan
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