Kyrgyzstan's President Almazbek Atambayev told visiting U.S. officials that all foreign troops must be withdrawn from the Manas international airport in 2014.
“Speaking about U.S. military presence in the republic the head of state said no foreign military contingent should be in the Manas Civil Airport after the summer of 2014,” the presidential press service said in a statement on Mr. Atambayev's meeting in Bishkek on Monday with a U.S. delegation headed by Susan Elliott, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia.
The U.S. airbase, established at Manas in December 2001, serves as a vital transit hub for U.S. troops and aircraft involved in the NATO Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Mr. Atambayev first called for shutting down the U.S. base after his election as Kyrgyz President last November.
At the same time he suggested setting up a “civilian transit facility” in Manas to haul cargoes to and from Afghanistan and invited Russia and the U.S. to participate.
Mr. Atambayev's new statement came ahead of his visit Moscow later this week. The Kyrgyz leader will try to get a $106-million credit Moscow promised earlier and to secure continued supplies of Russian fuel and seeds at reduced prices.
Over the past 18 months Kyrgyzstan received more than $100 million in aid from Russia.
Experts said the economic situation in Kyrgyzstan is desperate as the budget deficit stood at $460 million last year and foreign debt servicing due this year tops $2 billion.
Closure of the U.S. airbase, which brings Kyrgyzstan about $150 million a year in rent and other payments, will blow a deeper hole in the country's budget.
However, Kyrgyzstan, as a member of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation, must comply with the defence pact's recent rule which says that a member-state needs the approval of all other partners to host a foreign base on its territory.