U.S. and Kyrgyzstan sign air base fuel supply deal
Kyrgyzstan and the United States signed an agreement on Tuesday on jet fuel supplies to a U.S. air base in the Central Asian state, replacing previous deals with a more transparent system, Reuters reported.
The new government in Kyrgyzstan, which also hosts a Russian air base, has tried to remove opaque supply schemes which it says favoured the clan of former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, deposed in a popular uprising last April.
The Manas base, located at Kyrgyzstan's main civilian airport outside the capital Bishkek, is a vital transit point for the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.
"Today we made the first step towards an agreement, enabling us to buy fuel from the state of Kyrgyzstan, with money to be transferred to the budget," said Larry Memmott, the U.S. charge d'affaires in Kyrgyzstan.
He was speaking after signing the agreement with Kyrgyz Energy Minister Askarbek Shodiyev.
"We want this process to be completely transparent," Memmott said in Russian. "This agreement will be in force as long as the transit centre exists."
The Kyrgyz state-run Manas Refuelling Complex planned to supply up to 50 percent of the fuel consumed by the U.S. air base, said deputy company head Tilek Isayev.
The rest will be supplied by Mina Corp, a Gibraltar-based company awarded a contract by the United States last November. The company, which supplied fuel to the U.S. base under Bakiyev, has denied any links to his administration.
The Manas base is estimated to need 360,000 tonnes of jet fuel a year.
Kyrgyzstan, where hundreds of people were killed in ethnic riots last June, elected a new parliament last October. The poverty-stricken country is trying to build the first parliamentary democracy in ex-Soviet Central Asia, whose four other countries are ruled by authoritarian leaders.