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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07BISHKEK614
2007-05-24 14:44:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Bishkek
Cable title:  

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT AND PRESS TARGET MANAS AIRBASE

Tags:   PGOV  MARR  PREL  KDEM  KG 
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RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1951
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 BISHKEK 000614 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR SCA/CEN (GEHRENBECK)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/24/2017
TAGS: PGOV MARR PREL KDEM KG
SUBJECT: KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT AND PRESS TARGET MANAS AIRBASE

REF: A. BISHKEK 528

B. 06 BISHKEK 1407

C. BISHKEK 597

BISHKEK 00000614 001.2 OF 004


Classified By: Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)



1. (C) Summary: During a packed parliamentary committee
session May 23, MPs criticized the Prosecutor General's
office for its handling of the Hatfield case and called for
the ouster of the U.S. military from Manas Airbase. Interest
in extension renewals for the base's operations as well as
tax and compensation questions interrupted the general
criticisms of the base. Deputy Defense Minister Oruzbayev
advanced several arguments in defense of the base, and later
reported to the Ambassador that Defense Minister Isakov said
"Kyrgyzstan would stay the course" on the base. MPs also
learned about progress by the president's special commission
on the base to develop "options" for the base's future. The
session ended with plans for further debate and a future
resolution aiming to denounce the base.



2. (C) Summary continued: On the day before the
parliamentary spectacle, President Bakiyev's Chief of Staff
told the Ambassador there was no basis for the base's
closure, and said he would "help" the United States.
Parliament Speaker Sultanov also downplayed the parliamentary
session and delayed a planned base debate. We believe that
there is high-level support for the base's continued
presence, but sense that some opposition is designed to
increase the financial cost to the United States of the
base's continued presence in Kyrgyzstan. By late June we
anticipate a parliamentary debate and resolution, but we
expect Speaker Sultanov, in coordination with the government,
to ensure the resolution is not too "painful." However,
Russian-supported opposition to the base will also intensify
as Bishkek prepares to host the August Shanghai Cooperation
Organization summit. End summary.

Setting the Parliamentary Stage


--------------------------





3. (SBU) Before a packed parliamentary chamber, Defense and
Security Committee Chairman Rashid Tagayev presided over a
May 23 joint committee session to discuss the Ivanov case and
Manas Airbase. Members of Tagayev's committee, joined by
representatives of the parliamentary committees on
international policy, law and order, anti-corruption, and
forestry and environmental affairs, grilled Vice Prime
Minister Dosbol Nur-uulu, deputy ministers and other
officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defense,
Finance and Interior as well as from the Prosecutor General's
office and the State Tax Committee. A silent Mrs. Ivanova,
accompanied by her attorney Galina Skripkina, as well as a
number of journalists also attended. The Embassy forwarded
regrets on behalf of the Ambassador and Base Commander
Colonel Reese to invitations to participate, which we
received late on May 22. Some MPs were upset that the

Ambassador and Colonel Reese were not present. The Embassy,
however, had an observer in the audience.

Joint Committee Reflects on Hatfield Case


--------------------------





4. (C) Pro-government MPs Iskhak Masaliyev and Khadjimurat
Korkmazov lambasted government representatives )- especially
the Prosecutor General's office -- for its poor performance
in the Hatfield investigation. In response, the MPs heard

BISHKEK 00000614 002.2 OF 004


that the Kyrgyz investigation had been hampered by lack of
feedback from U.S. authorities and ultimately had "not yet
been closed." (Note: Earlier in the day, pursuant to Embassy
requests for a copy of the Kyrgyz investigative report into
the Hatfield/Ivanov incident, we heard that the Kyrgyz report
may now require further judicial action. The MFA later
expressed ignorance of the report's status, even after Deputy
Foreign Minister Kydyrov told the Ambassador on May 18 that
the MFA had provided Embassy with the report. End note.)
Both MPs touted the Hatfield case, as well as the May 7
incident involving a U.S. base contractor and the death of a
Kyrgyz pedestrian (reftel A), as "proof" that the U.S. would
never adhere to Kyrgyz laws.

Parliamentarians Vent about the Base


--------------------------





5. (C) After remarking that discussion of the Hatfield case
had reached a "dead end," Korkmazov and other MPs turned
their attention to Manas Airbase. Accusing the base of
posing a security threat to Kyrgyzstan, Korkmazov and
Masaliyev cited the ouster of U.S. forces from Uzbekistan as
a model for closing Manas Airbase. Masaliyev said that the
base agreement, at a minimum, should be denounced, and that a
lawsuit should be filed to compensate for damages incurred
during the September 2006 plane collision (reftel B). MPs
discussed the validity of the 2001 base agreement, and
questioned if explicit extension approvals were required.
(Note: The agreement states that after the first year, the
agreement shall continue to be in force unless terminated by
either party on 180 days written notice through diplomatic
channels. End note.) Skripkina, after consulting her notes,
advised MPs of the 180 day timeframe. Several MPs asked
about taxes, particularly related to the land code, and
environmental damage.

Deputy Defense Minister Responds


--------------------------





6. (C) Deputy Defense Minister Orozbayev advanced several
arguments in defense of the base -- but was often drowned out
by Masaliyev and Korkmazov. Orozbayev detailed base
operations data and outlined the base's contributions to
Kyrgyzstan's security and economy. He and the Deputy Finance
Minister discussed base-related tax revenues of 384 million
soms (around $10 million) for 2002-2007, but also addressed
payment mechanisms for U.S. compensation for the base.
Oruzbayev also noted that base officials had asked for
reports of environmental damage in order to consider
appropriate compensation.



7. (C) Later on May 24, Oruzbayev pulled the Ambassador
aside to comment on the "ugly and tense" parliamentary
session. He said the government's presentations were
fact-based, but the parliamentarians were only interested in
populist rhetoric. He was surprised by the low level of
discourse and said that one deputy even questioned his
patriotism for his "defense" of the U.S. and the base.
Oruzbayev told the Ambassador he had briefed Defense Minister
Isakov about the session, and reported that Isakov remarked
"Kyrgyzstan is going to stay the course."

What are the Next Steps?


--------------------------





8. (SBU) Although Deputy Foreign Minister Kydyrov stressed
the importance of the base and the need to comply with

BISHKEK 00000614 003.2 OF 004


Kyrgyzstan's commitments, he informed the MPs that the 2001
agreement would be reviewed with an aim to modify certain
aspects of the accord. MPs, however, seemed more interested
in a resolution denouncing continued base operations.
Additionally, MP Korkmazov promised that his constituents -)
his parliamentary district encompasses the base -- would
block the road leading to the base. (Note: It is not clear
if his pledge is related to previously-announced plans for
demonstrations June 2 at the base and Embassy by Masaliyev's
and Ivanova's new group, "Movement for the Withdrawal of the
American Airbase from Kyrgyzstan." End note.) He also
claimed that military operations in Afghanistan were over,
and joined Masaliyev in urging lawmakers to terminate the
base agreement.



9. (SBU) Tagayev concluded the session with promises of a
plenary debate on the base. However, Tagayev also reportedly
pledged that Parliament would take into account the
government's views, especially those generated by the special
presidential commission on the base, prior to any final
parliamentary action. Vice Prime Minister Nur-uluu had
earlier advised MPs that the commission would finish its work
soon, and would provide "several options" regarding the
base's future.

Taking the Battle to the Press


--------------------------





10. (SBU) The Ambassador gave separate interviews with
internet news site "AKIpress" and Kyrgyz National Television
"KTR" on May 22; and on May 23 and 24, former U.S. Ambassador
to Afghanistan Ronald Neumann gave a short press conference
and an in-depth interview. Amidst comments on the base and
the Hatfield-Ivanov case, the Ambassador again rejected
rumors that Manas Airbase would be used for military actions
against Iran. While AKIPress largely accurately reported the
Ambassador's remarks, the May 23 Russian language papers
continued their offensive against the base and the $55,000
payment made to Alexander Ivanov's widow on May 21 (reftel
C). Local commentators have trivialized the amount of the
payment and emphasized "deceitful" U.S. actions related to
the Hatfield investigation.

Kyrgyz Assurances


--------------------------





11. (C) Prior to the parliamentary committee session,
Presidential Chief of Staff Medet Sadyrkulov expressed his
belief to the Ambassador on May 22 that nothing "negative"
would emerge from the parliamentary hearings, and stressed
that there was no basis for the base's closure. He added
that the U.S. should remain confident and "not worry" about
the base. He said he would "help" the United States.



12. (C) In a late May 23 meeting with Parliament Speaker
Sultanov and two other MPs, Sultanov stopped MPs Masaliyev
and Abdyldayev, who both participated in the base session
earlier in the day, from responding to the Ambassador's
question regarding the next steps on base discussions in
Parliament. Instead, Sultanov advised the Ambassador that it
had been a "normal hearing" and assured the Ambassador not to
be concerned. We later learned that a plenary discussion of
the base, previously planned for May 25, was no longer on the
schedule.

Comment


--------------------------



BISHKEK 00000614 004.2 OF 004





13. (C) The parliamentary session on the base, like much
recent media coverage of the base, provided an outlet for
many populist statements. However, the comments by
Sadyrkulov, Sultanov and Isakov possibly underscore a
higher-level commitment to keeping the base. We will see
what proposals, if any, the government formally submits
regarding the base agreement. We also note that President
Bakiyev has been noticeably silent on the base lately. As
described above, Sadyrkulov, who is one of Bakiyev's closest
advisors, advised the Ambassador not to be concerned about
the parliamentary hearings. Opposition by some Bakiyev
loyalists to the base may, in fact, be a tactic to increase
the cost to the United States of maintaining the base's
presence in Kyrgyzstan. We do not sense any intention in the
government to expel the base, and expect the government to
stand firm when needed.



14. (C) Although pressure on the base will continue as the
August Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit
approaches, Parliament will break for its summer recess in
late June and not reconvene until after the SCO summit.
Before the late June recess, however, we expect a
parliamentary debate and resolution on the base. Speaker
Sultanov will likely consult with the government to
orchestrate a resolution that is not fatal to the base.
Meanwhile, we will monitor turnout at the June 2 protest
actions announced by the "Movement for the Withdrawal of the
American Base from Kyrgyzstan" to gauge popular interest in
the base issue. While there is domestic opposition to the
base, Russian interests are fueling the opposition prior to
the SCO summit. Andrei Grozin, a Moscow-based analyst,
predicted in today's Kyrgyz press that the United States will
find something "unpleasant" coming from the SCO summit.



15. (C) The Ambassador will continue to engage the local
press next week, and we have begun planning with the base to
extend invitations for parliamentarians to tour the base and
provide briefings to government officials. An upcoming trip
to Afghanistan by many of those involved in the base debate
will provide another opportunity to emphasize the importance
of the base to multinational efforts in Afghanistan. We plan
to utilize the upcoming visits by Secretary Gates, Assistant
Secretary Boucher and Admiral Fallon to reinforce key

SIPDIS
messages in an effort to prevent anything "unpleasant"
emanating from the SCO summit.

YOVANOVITCH