Reaching a new agreement on Russia’s military base in Tajikistan may take up to nine months despite earlier reports that the deal is near clinched, the commander of the Russian Ground Forces said on Saturday.
“I believe the countries’ leaders will sign the deal on the base’s continuing stay [in Tajikistan] in the first half of the next year,” Col. Gen. Vladimir Chirkin said.
But Russia has problems getting Tajikistan to agree to prolong the lease on the base for 49 years, Chirkin said on Ekho Moskvy radio. Earlier reports said Dushanbe only wants a 10-year lease.
Negotiators were given time until April to reconcile the terms of the prolonged lease deal, which is now set to expire by 2014, the military official said.
Tajikistan is seeking $100 million in annual payments for the base, which hosts 7,000 soldiers across three cities, Russia’s biggest military contingent abroad, Chirkin said.
The price may actually be as high as $250 million, Kommersant daily reported earlier this week. Tajik officials dismissed the claim, but said they wanted concessions from Russia on migration policy and oil tariffs.
Under the current deal, Russia does not pay anything for the base, but is required to provide military and technical assistance to the impoverished Tajikistan, which weathered a bloody civil war in the 1990s and is currently a major drug trafficking route in the region.