Russia extends military presence in Armenia: accord

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Armenia and Russia signed a deal Friday extending Moscow's military presence in the ex-Soviet republic by decades and making Russian troops responsible for Armenia's national security.

The deal strengthens Moscow's military clout in the strategic South Caucasus region and reinforces its alliance with Armenia, Moscow's main regional ally.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian signed the deal in Yerevan during a televised ceremony.

The deal will see Moscow extend its lease on a military base in Armenia from 2020 to 2044 and upgrade the mission of the estimated 3,000 Russian troops stationed there to include providing for Armenia's security.

It also calls for Russia to assist Armenia in securing arms and modern military equipment.

The deal is likely to raise alarm bells in neighbouring Azerbaijan, which is locked in a long-simmering conflict with Yerevan over the breakaway Nagorny Karabakh region.

© 2010 AFP

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