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Obama Asks Kyrgyzstan To Expand Cooperation

U.S. soldiers at the Manas air base after arriving from Afghanistan.

U.S. soldiers at the Manas air base after arriving from Afghanistan.

BISHKEK -- U.S. President Barack Obama has written a letter to the Kyrgyz government, expressing his hope for further cooperation between the two nations, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

In the letter, Obama expresses his thanks to the Kyrgyz nation and its leadership for their contribution to efforts to stabilize the situation in nearby Afghanistan.

Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Kadyrbek Sarbaev delivered Obama's letter to President Kurmanbek Bakiev on June 11.

Bakiev's office announced that a group of high-ranking U.S. officials is scheduled to travel to Bishkek soon to discuss bilateral issues.

Sarbaev told journalists after his meeting with Bakiev that Bishkek's official response to Obama's letter would be "based upon Kyrgyzstan's national interests," while also taking into account "current developments in the Central Asian region, particularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Sarbaev stressed, however, that Bishkek's decision to annul its agreement with the United States for its use of the Manas air base outside Bishkek is irreversible.

In late February, Kyrgyzstan gave the United States six months to wind down its operations at the base, which Washington uses as an air bridge to ferry troops and supplies to Afghanistan.

In a recent letter to Bakiev, Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed his concern about the end of U.S. operations at the base.

Kyrgyz Reaction

In Kyrgyzstan, the former head of the Security Council told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service that expelling NATO troops from Manas air base goes against national interests.

General Miroslav Niyazov, who is also a veteran of the Kyrgyz intelligence service, said the volatile situation in Afghanistan is a threat not only to Central Asia but to the whole world and the Kyrgyz government's decision earlier this year to close the air base was wrong.

Kyrgyz analyst Mars Sariev told RFE/RL that the issue of NATO troops using Manas has likely been privately discussed by Washington, Moscow, and Bishkek. Sariev said Karzai's letter to Bakiev proves there are ongoing talks about the air base.

Sariev said it is very likely that U.S.-led NATO troops will remain at Manas after the August deadline they were given to leave and that such a decision will likely have been agreed by Moscow and Washington.