Spain loses right to use Kyrgyz air base

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A radio report says Spanish troops have to move 60 soldiers and two Hercules C-130 aircraft from a key air base in Kyrgyzstan to Herat in Afghanistan.

Madrid – Spanish and French troops had to leave a key air base in Kyrgyzstan used for missions to Afghanistan after permission was withdrawn for them to use it, the French military and Spanish radio said Sunday.

Spain temporarily moved the roughly 60 soldiers and two Hercules C-130 aircraft which it had stationed at the base at Manas to Herat in Afghanistan on 13 October, Cadena Ser radio reported, citing unnamed diplomatic sources.

The French armed forces said its equipment and troops were moved from the base near the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, to Tajik capital Dushanbe.

"At the start of October, the French supply aircraft and around 30 servicemen who man it left Manas for Dushanbe where they are continuing their mission," the armed forces said.

"The agreement that authorised them to work in Kyrgyzstan expired and a new agreement is still being negotiated."

There was no immediate confirmation from Spain's defence ministry.

Kyrgyzstan cancelled deals for use of the base -- a refuelling point for aircraft supplying NATO forces in Afghanistan -- with Spain and France in March when it overturned a separate base agreement with the United States.

In June, Kyrgyzstan agreed to let the United States continue to use the base after Washington said it was willing to pay more to have access to it.

Earlier in October, Spain sent a delegation to Kyrgyzstan to negotiate a similar agreement, but the talks broke down, the radio station said.

Spain has lost the use of the base just as it has agreed to boost its troop contingent in Afghanistan ahead of the second round of the presidential election on 7 November, it added.

The Manas base, dubbed "The Gateway to Hell" as many of the troops that pass through it head to combat duty in Afghanistan, has taken on added importance as instability in Pakistan has hampered alternative transit routes.

AFP / Expatica

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