Russia, Tajikistan to aim for 49-year base deal: Medvedev

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Russia and Tajikistan hope to clinch a firm deal next year allowing Moscow to keep a military base in the strategically-located Central Asian nation for another 49 years, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Friday.

"We've agreed to give all the necessary orders to our ministries to aim for the signing of a relevant new agreement in the first quarter of next year," Medvedev said after talks with his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rahmon.

The new deal will span 49 years, Medvedev said.

It will replace the October 2004 lease agreement allowing Russia to use a military base in the Tajik capital Dushanbe for 10 years.

"Russian military presence in Tajikistan is an important factor to support stability and provide security in the region," Rahmon said.

Russian news agencies, citing a Russian defense ministry source, said Moscow would help re-train and re-arm Tajikistan's army in exchange for Dushanbe's willingness to extend the lease.

The two leaders also signed an agreement under which 300 Russian border guards will train their Tajik counterparts.

The relations between the two countries cooled in May after Russia halted fuel exports to the energy-poor Central Asian country, prompting fears of economic collapse and unrest.

The poorest of the former Soviet republics, Tajikistan has no oil or gas reserves and last year imported 90 percent of its oil products from Russia.

Russia has about 6,000 troops in Tajikistan, which shares a porous 1,300-kilometre (800-mile) border with Afghanistan.

In 2004, Moscow agreed to write off Tajikistan's debt in exchange for control over the Okno (Window) space surveillance complex 60 kilometres (40 miles) east of Dushanbe.

Russian border guards were until 2005 stationed in southern Tajikistan where they patrolled the Tajik border with Afghanistan.

Earlier in the day Medvedev and Rahmon met with their counterparts from Pakistan and Afghanistan for economic and security talks.

© 2011 AFP

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