BAKU -- Russian officials are in Baku to discuss the renewal of Moscow's lease for Azerbaijan's Qabala radar station, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.
Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov told journalists after talks with Colonel General Safar Abiyev, Azerbaijan's defense minister, on July 25 that Moscow had prepared proposals for modernizing the Qabala facility.
Serdyukov said a Russian working group will travel to Baku soon to finalize the technical issues involved in the extension of the lease and Moscow's modernization plans. Then he will meet with Abiyev in August to discuss details of the new lease, he added.
Serdyukov also met on July 25 with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.
Qabala was built in 1985 and can monitor missile launches in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
The current 10-year lease, under which Russia pays $10 million annually, expires in August 2012.
Azerbaijani officials said recently they wanted to raise the rent
that Moscow pays to use the facility.
Cesur Sumerinli, who heads the Doktrina military think tank in Baku, told RFE/RL that "apparently, there is a verbal consensus [on a long-term lease for Qabala]. I think Baku has held relevant consultations with the West in recent months...[and it] expressed no objection to Russia leasing the radar station. I think Azerbaijan will sign a lease agreement with Russia in the near future."
Sumerinli said he thought the new annual lease payment will be around $50 million.
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