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Russia Signs Deal To Prolong Troop Presence At Tajik Military Base

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Tajik President Emomali Rahmon meet in Dushanbe on October 5.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Tajik President Emomali Rahmon meet in Dushanbe on October 5.
Russia and Tajikistan have signed an agreement allowing Russian troops to stay at a military base in Tajikistan until 2042.

The Tajik and Russian defense ministers signed the agreement on October 5 during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Dushanbe.

Upon meeting in the Tajik capital, Putin gave President Emomali Rahmon a sniper's rifle to mark the Tajik president's 60th birthday, which is October 5.

Later, at a joint press conference with his Tajik counterpart, Putin indicated that the deal would help preserve both countries' strategic interests.

"The key document is the agreement fixing the conditions of the Russian military base's stay on the territory of Tajikistan up to 30 years, to be precise until 2042," he said. "With this, we will secure the protection of our common strategic interests, the strengthening of security, and the stabilization of the situation in Central Asian region as a whole."

Rahmon pointed out that Russia would provide Tajikistan’s army with assistance.

"According to [the agreement], the Russian side takes responsibility for the modernization and technical renovation of Tajikistan's Armed Forces, and the strengthening of its material and technical property with modern arms," he said. "The Russian side will also assist in preparation of military personnel and improvement of other spheres in Tajikistan's defense sector."

Putin's aide Yuri Ushakov told journalists that the agreement extends a deal signed in 1993, which was due to expire in 2014. Ushakov added that Russia would pay "a symbolic sum" to extend the lease.

Moscow is allowing more Tajik migrant workers to earn cash in Russia, a source of income that is crucial to Tajikistan's fragile economy.

Protracted Negotiations

Tajikistan and Russia have been negotiating the lease for nearly a year. The talks on the issue were fast-tracked in April, when President Rahmon publicly called on Russia "to respect" Tajikistan.

Talking to journalists in mid-April, Rahmon said he has "a big file of requests by other countries who offer mountains of gold for having a military base in Tajikistan, but I haven't even looked at those offers."

Shortly after that, in his annual address to the parliament Rahmon expressed concerns over regional security after NATO troops' withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014. He called on the world community to help Tajikistan fulfill its responsibility in regional peace.

Also in April, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Dushanbe to discuss the issue. Lavrov stated after his meeting with Rahmon that Tajikistan is interested in having Russian troops on its territory to secure its poorly controlled border with Afghanistan, adding that Russian military forces should remain in Tajikistan for a longer period.

Russia's Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov has visited Tajikistan twice in recent weeks and Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov came to Dushanbe last month to discuss the future of the military base.

Meanwhile, the head of a visiting U.S. Congressional delegation, Dan Burton, said in Dushanbe in July that Washington views Tajikistan as presenting a possible alternative to the Transit Center at Manas airport in neighboring Kyrgyzstan.

The Transit Center in Manas near Kyrgyzstan's capital Bishkek is used by NATO for noncombatant supplies to its troops in Afghanistan. The center is scheduled to be closed in 2014 after NATO withdraws its troops from Afghanistan.

About 7,000 troops from Russia's 201st Motorized Division are using three facilities on Tajik soil -- near Dushanbe and in the southern cities of Kulob and Qurghon-Teppa.

It is the largest foreign deployment of Russian troops.

With reporting by Reuters, Interfax, and RFE/RL's Tajik Service
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