DUSHANBE, October 7 (RIA Novosti) – The ratification last week of an agreement extending the lease on Russia’s military base in Tajikistan is crucial for regional security, a senior Russian lawmaker said Monday.
The lower house of Tajikistan’s parliament ratified Tuesday a long-delayed deal to extend the lease of Russia’s military base in the Central Asian nation until 2042. The deal will now have to be approved by the upper house and signed by President Emomali Rahmon.
The threat of terrorism and drug trafficking remains strong, “so, through the joint efforts of the two countries – Russia and Tajikistan – we must ensure security in the region,” Sergei Naryshkin, speaker of the lower house of the Russian parliament, told Makhmadsaid Ubaidulloyev, speaker of the upper house of Tajikistan’s parliament.
Ubaidulloyev said his country is interested in Russia’s stable development, since “Russia’s progress and stability means stability for the entire region.”
The previous lease on the 201st Military Base – that, at 7,000 troops, accommodates Russia’s biggest military garrison abroad – was set to expire next year, but Rahmon and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed last fall to prolong it for 30 years.
Naryshkin is in Tajikistan as head of a Russian delegation that is also due to negotiate the use of the Ayni airbase near Dushanbe, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper reported. It cited Russian defense officials as saying Moscow intends to rent Ayni as part of the 201st military base.
Moscow expects to sign the airbase agreement with Dushanbe before 2014, when international security forces begin to withdraw from Afghanistan. The deal has particular importance as neighboring Uzbekistan has effectively blocked the only railway line leading from Russia to Tajikistan, Russian military and diplomatic sources were quoted as saying by the paper.
In exchange for the airbase lease, Russia is offering long-term military-technical assistance, including help in creating army aviation as a full-fledged element in Tajikistan’s armed forces, to be equipped with two squadrons of Mi-24 helicopter gunships and Mi-8 military transport helicopters, the paper said.
The paper also cited unnamed experts as saying the current Russian visit represents a show of Russian support for Rahmon in Tajikistan’s November presidential election.
Updates with Ayni airbase reports