Kyrgyzstan might be left with nothing after U.S. leaves Manas

Baku, Azerbaijan, March 5.

By Viktoriya Zhavoronkova - Trend:

Kyrgyzstan is under a threat of losing a part of its sovereignty or of being left without anything after NATO forces withdraw from Manas airport in Bishkek.

NATO established a military base in December 2001, which was later transformed into a Transit Center, at Manas International Airport near Bishkek, after the beginning of its counterterrorist operations in Afghanistan. The lease agreement expires in July 2014 and the country's government has no plans to prolong it.

Manas transit center brings in about $60 million to Kyrgyzstan per year in the form of lease remittance, besides other payments for local services, provided for the base's needs.

"Kyrgyzstan will immediately lose the $60 million in rent the U.S. is paying and probably twice that amount if one considers U.S. payments for services, such as jet fuel, food supplies, garbage disposal, etc," U.S. expert on Central Asia Bruce Pannier told Trend.

The Manas base has been a steady source of income for Kyrgyzstan for more than 12 years, he added.

Bishkek plans to make up these loses by the income from the activity of new international hub on the territory of Manas airport. But the enterprice increased its net income only by 2.5 percent in 2013 due to growth in air transportation, in spite of greater expectations.

Besides money income, the base provides Kyrgyzstan with additional workplaces and that is an important factor taking into consideration the country's hard economic situation.

Latest news on Russian plans on investing funds in Manas airport's shares worried local community.

Kyrgyz experts believe that in case of Russia's investments in Manas, Bishkek will partly lose its sovereignty due to lose of control over the only international airport of the country, local office of the Radio Liberty reports. A filial of Russian "Rosneft" company pretends to invest about 350 million in Manas's improvement.

Kyrgyz expert Topchubek Turgunaliyev believes, that the county's Cabinet of Ministers makes inexcusable mistake.

"To be honest, I don't understand the position of the Cabinet of Ministers, which easily loses one of country's strategic enterprises. This will definitely have consequences in future, "Turgunaliyev told in his interview to the Radio of Liberty.

Other experts believe that Kyrgyzstan should announce an open tender to get a choice and it is unwise to sell shares to a foreign company.

The final decision in this regard is to be considered by the state parliament and, in case of approval, it will come into force in 2015.

Bruce Pannier believes, that Manas's future is still unclear.

"The big question is what happens to Manas after the U.S. leaves," he said.

Several countries, besides Russia, also have already proposed investments to the improvement of the airport.

"In the cases of Russia and China, the offers might have only been made to convince the Kyrgyz government to fulfil promises to have U.S. forces vacate the base," Pannier adden.

Once U.S. troops are gone, he believes, that Russian and Chinese interest in Manas might also disappear and that would leave Kyrgyzstan with nothing, except the improvements the U.S. made at the airport since 2001.

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