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Kyrgyz President Rejects Idea Of New U.S. Base In His Country

BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov has rejected the idea of hosting a U.S. military base in his country, saying such a move would place Kyrgyzstan in a "cat and mouse" game in terms of its relations with Washington and with Russia.

Japarov made the remark on October 23 during an annual press conference in which he answered questions from state and private media outlets as well as independent bloggers and freelance journalists.

Answering a question about potential for a U.S. military base being reestablished in Kyrgyzstan for the first time in seven years, Japarov noted that the country already hosts a Russian military base at Kant in the Chui region.

"One [foreign] base will be enough for us," Japarov said. "We do not want to play cat and mouse with influential countries by stationing two bases on our territory."

A U.S. airbase had been opened at part of Bishkek's Manas Airport in December 2001 in order to support international troop deployments to Afghanistan and counterterrorism operations as part of the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom.

But U.S. operations there ended in 2014 after Kyrgyzstan's parliament voted that Washington should vacate the facility -- a move seen as being aimed at pleasing Bishkek's former overlord, Russia.

Recent U.S. media reports have suggested that the U.S. military would seek to reposition some of its troops in Central Asia after its decision to withdraw from Afghanistan.

Japarov spent about four hours answering journalists' questions at his October 23 press conference.

He said border crossings between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have remained closed to Tajik citizens since April "to prevent any possible conflict" following bloody clashes that killed 36 Kyrgyz citizens and 19 Tajiks.

More than 200 people were wounded in the violence. Hundreds of houses and shops were also burned down or damaged.

"The borders will be open [for Tajik students and other Tajik citizens] after all delimitation and demarcation works are completed," Japarov told journalists on October 23.

"Members of the intergovernmental commission will be heading to Tajikistan soon," the Kyrgyz president said. "They have been working constantly."

When questioned by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service about the persecution of political opposition figures by authorities in Kyrgyzstan, Japarov denied that there has been any political persecution in the country.

Several former prime ministers and opposition politicians, as well as former President Almazbek Atambaev and several his associates, remain jailed in Kyrgyzstan over their alleged role in mass protests against Japarov's government in October 2020.

Some face charges of attempting to seize government buildings. Others are accused of corruption.

Japarov said all of those cases remain under investigation and await court rulings.

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