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Russia, Azerbaijan Discuss Lease Renewal For Radar Station

The gates to the Qabala radar station that Russia currently leases from Azerbaijan.
The gates to the Qabala radar station that Russia currently leases from Azerbaijan.
BAKU -- Russian and Azerbaijani officials are in the midst of three days of talks in Baku on renewing Moscow's lease on an Azerbaijani radar station, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

The Russian Defense Minister told reporters the talks -- which began on December 13 -- would continue through December 15. Russia signed a lease agreement for the strategic Qabala radar station in 2002 that is due to expire in December 2012.

The ministry says the Russian delegation is being led by Deputy Defense Minister Anatoliy Antonov.

"The sides discussed military-technical cooperation issues and talked about the conditions of the Qabala radar lease agreement," the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported after Defense Minister Safar Abiyev met with Antonov on December 14.

Qabala was built in 1985 and can monitor missile launches in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

Russia pays $10 million annually to the Azerbaijani government under the current 10-year lease. Azerbaijani officials said this summer that they want to raise the rent Moscow pays to use the facility.

Vladimir Savchenko, director-general of the Russian Radiotechnics Institute, told RIA Novosti that construction of a new, module-type radar station known as Voronej-VP will be completed in Qabala by 2019.

He said the new station will replace the existing Daryal radar station in Qabala and will belong to Russia.

Azerbaijani parliament deputy Zahid Oruc, a member of the parliamentary committee on defense and security issues, told RFE/RL that construction of a new radar station at Qabala could be possible as part of a political agreement between Russia and Azerbaijan.

"But if Russia wants to strengthen its military participation in Azerbaijan, it will damage our military political interests," he said. "Because in some cases these military forces have a negative impact on a country's independence and ensure Russia's dominant role in economic-political processes [of the country]."

Deputy Rasim Musabeyov, a member of the committee on international issues, told RFE/RL that Azerbaijan has not yet given consent to a renewal of the Qabala radar lease, let alone agreed to the construction of a new station at the site by Russia.

He added that he does not believe Russia will be able to put forth suitable proposals to Azerbaijan in order to realize its intention.

"Russia can construct this station in Daghestan as well," he said. "Until then, Azerbaijan can extend Qabala's lease for one or two years."

Some political analysts say that the Qabala radar station brings nothing but political and ecological damage to Azerbaijan and there is therefore no need to build a new module-type station or renew Russia's existing agreement to use the station.

Read more in Azeri here

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