Russian venture to fuel US air base in Kyrgyzstan

28th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

Kyrgyzstan and the Russian energy giant Gazprom will supply 20 percent of the plane fuel for the US airbase in the Central Asian state that is a hub for operations in Afghanistan, an official said on Wednesday.

"Gazpromneft-Aero Kyrgyzstan signed the contract on fuel supply to the Manas Transit Center," the head of joint venture, Tilektesh Isayev, told AFP.

Manas Transit Center is the formal name for the US air base located at the civilian airport on the outskirts of the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek. The base is used as an important strategic hub for the US operations against the Taliban.

The joint venture signed the one-year contract on Tuesday with the United States to supply 20 percent of the monthly fuel consumption to the base. The first supplies will begin in 45 days.

"The volume of the order may reach 50 percent," the US Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Pamela Spratlen said. "In today's prices, the total sum of the contract may reach $300-400 million," she said.

Within three months, the company's share of supply may increase to 50 percent of the jet fuel used to refuel US planes for operations against the Taliban.

Saying that the old supply contracts favoured people close to the former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, Kyrgyzstan has pledged to eliminate murky fuel supply schemes.

Bakiyev was toppled in April 2010 after a violent uprising and is now in exile in Belarus.

The rest of the fuel will be supplied by Mina Corporation, a Gilbraltar-based company, which signed the contract last November and denied any links to the ousted president Bakiyev.

Gazpromneft Aero, a subsidiary of the Russian energy giant, owns 51 percent of the joint venture. The other 49 percent belong to the Kyrgyz state-run Manas Refuelling Complex.

Isayev said the company is ready to provide up to 90 percent of the fuel for the US base and that the fuel will come from the Gazprom-owned refineries in Russia, who also has a military base in Kyrgyzstan.

The US base is estimated to consume between 360,000 and 400,000 tonnes of jet fuel a year.

The impoverished Kyrgyzstan, an ex-Soviet republic sandwiched between regional powerhouse China and mineral-rich Kazakhstan, is the only country in the world to house US and Russian military bases.

© 2011 AFP

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