Kyrgyzstan repeats claim for U.S. troops pullout

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) wants to counteract the USA's supremacy in the world. At the meeting in Kazakhstan yesterday the leaders of the SCO member-countries called for the U.S.-led anti-terror coalition in Afghanistan to set a time frame for withdrawing its forces from member states. The claim has already raised concerns in the U.S., but Kyrgyzstan decided it was not enough and repeated the claim.

Kyrgyzstan's top diplomat, acting Foreign Minister Roza Otunbayeva, on Wednesday called once again for the U.S. to set a date for withdrawing troops based in Central Asia in support of coalition forces in Afghanistan, and said she didn't believe the demand would damage relations.

Otunbayeva told reporters she believed the situation in Afghanistan had stabilized to such a degree that it merited asking how long the forces would remain.

"The question we're posing is what is the term of presence," Otunbayeva said.

"We have put forward quite reasonable questions and I don't think our relations (with the United States) should be damaged," she said.

According to the AP, about 2,000 U.S. service members are deployed at air bases in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, according to the U.S. military. Another 200 French personnel are deployed at an air force base in Tajikistan.

The United States rejected the call for a deadline. U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the U.S. military presence "is determined by the terms of our bilateral agreements, under which both countries have concluded that there is a benefit to both sides from our activities."

At the U.S. Defense Department, spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said that regarding U.S. bases in Uzbekistan, "it's a decision the Uzbek government has to make as to whether or not we would continue to operate from that."

Otunbayeva refused to say when the Kyrgyz leadership wanted the U.S. troops to leave.

Otunbayeva also said that Kyrgyzstan was seeking a balanced decision regarding Uzbek asylum seekers who fled a violent crackdown in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijan on May 13. The country has been under enormous pressure from authorities in neighboring Uzbekistan to turn over more than 400 Uzbek residents that crossed the border after the crackdown.

The West has urged Kyrgyzstan's new leadership to fulfill its international obligations to treat asylum seekers properly.

"We'll do everything to get out of this situation with dignity and in dialogue with Uzbekistan and the international community," Otunbayeva said.

Uzbek authorities say some of the asylum seekers committed crimes in Uzbekistan.


On the photo: Roza Otunbayeva

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