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Kyrgyz-Russian Firm to Supply U.S. Air Base in Kyrgyzstan

A Russian controlled Gazpromneft-Aero Kyrgyzstan says it will begin supplying 20 percent of aviation fuel required by a vital U.S. air base in Kyrgyzstan from November.

The fuel supply contract was signed last week between U.S. Defense Logistics Agency and Gazpromneft Aero-Kyrgyzstan.

“The Americans have to be certain that we can deal with that volume of supplies. And maybe then [we] will start delivering more than 50 percent of the base’s needs,” said Tilek Isayev, head of the Gazpromneft-Aero Kyrgyzstan.

Former Soviet Central Asian nation authorities suspect the current supplier, Gibraltar-registered Mina Corp., of links to the family of former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, overthrown last year — allegations it has denied. Mina’s contract as the sole supplier to the base expires in December, but it can bid to retain a piece of the business.

Fuel sales to the air base in this impoverished have been mired in controversy over lack of transparency. A Gibraltar-registered firm is currently the sole supplier of fuel, but that arrangement is terminating in December.

Manas Center provides logistical support for NATO in Afghanistan and is a major transit hub for U.S. troops flying in and out of the region. The company also supplies fuel to civilian aircraft at the international airport where the base is located.

The new supplier is Gazpromneft-Aero Kyrgyzstan, which is 51 percent owned by a subsidiary of Gazprom and 49 percent by Kyrgyzstan’s government.

U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Pamela Spratlen told journalists the two sides could sign another contract within 90 days of the initial shipment of fuel that would increase delivery to up to 50 percent of the base’s needs, the Reuters news agency said.

The arrangement could ease concerns about corruption involving fuel supplies to the Manas. The potential for significant revenue also could reduce Moscow’s incentive to seek closure of the U.S. base.

The U.S. Manas air base spends from US$300 million to US$400 million a year on aviation fuel.

“The money coming from fuel supplies to the [Manas] Transit Center will go into Kyrgyzstan’s state budget, and it will be hard to filch it,” Russian Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Valentin Vlasov said to the Associated Press.

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