Kyrgyz lawmakers voted to shut down a key United States airbase despite Washington’s efforts to retain the facility beyond its forces drawdown in Afghanistan next year.
The 120-seat Kyrgyz legislature voted 91 to 5 on Thursday to give the Americans until July 11, 2014 to close the base, which sits at Kyrgyzstan’s main civilian airport Manas in the capital Bishkek.
Under the lease agreement, Kyrgyzstan must serve a 180-day notice to the U.S. to pull out the base.
The Pentagon has been using the airbase since 2001 as a major supply centre for anti-Taliban operations in Afghanistan.
It hosts about 1,500 US troops and operates round-the-clock, with planes hauling thousands of troops and hundreds of tonnes of cargo every month.
The bill will now go to Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev for signature. As recently as last month, U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Pamela Spratlen said in an interview that talks were continuing on the future of the airbase.
She described the base as “a very important logistical facility” that contributes to regional stability.
Russia, which is opposed to American long-term military presence in Central Asia, has long been lobbying for the base closure.
Former Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev promised to shut the facility after Moscow offered him a $2 billion credit line in 2009.
The Kyrgyz Parliament even passed a law to end the base lease and Mr. Bakiyev signed it, but changed his mind and allowed the base to operate as a transit centre after Washington tripled the rent.
Mr. Bakiyev was ousted in a public uprising in 2010 and Mr. Atambayev who replaced him in 2011, again pledged to shut the base and to turn it into a civilian cargo transit hub between Europe and Asia.
He invited the Americans to participate in the project. The Kyrgyz Government said there would be no need for the airbase after the planned withdrawal of the U.S.-led international security forces from Afghanistan in 2014.
Russia, which also has an airbase in Kyrgyzstan, last year extended its lease till 2032.