Tajikistan repeats call for Russia to pay for military base

Dushanbe reiterated on Monday that Russia should pay rent for its military base in Tajikistan, a request that has been rejected by Moscow.

“Russia is our important strategic partner,” Tajik Foreign Minister Hamrokhon Zarifi told journalists in the Tajik capital, but “our land cannot be free; it has its price, and no one can use it without paying.”

Tajikistan, a former Soviet republic, asked Russia several years ago to pay rent for its military base created in 2005, and the Ayni airport that Russia plans to start operating in line with an agreement signed in 2008.

“Currently, the two sides’ positions do not allow for the preparation of agreements on Russia’s military base and the Ayni airport,” the minister said.

He added, however, that talks between Dushanbe and Moscow on the issue would continue.

“Negotiations are taking place in a constructive spirit, without a rush and unnecessary emotions,” Zarifi said.

A total of 7,000 Russian troops are serving at three Russian military units in Dushanbe, the southwestern city of Qurgonteppa some 100 km from Dushanbe, and Kulob, about 200 km to the southwest of the capital. Russian troops in Tajikistan constitute the country’s largest ground force deployed abroad.

An agreement between Moscow and Dushanbe on the use of the Ayni airport just outside the capital has not come into force as Moscow has refused to pay the requested rent, which Tajikistan have put at $300 million a year, according to Tajik government sources quoted by the press.

Moscow and Dushanbe are currently in talks on the joint use of the airport.

Media reports said that Tajikistan has also been in talks with Washington on a possible lease of the airport, which the United States view as a possible hub for supplying U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The Tajik authorities have denied the allegations, saying that talks on the airport are only being held with Russia.

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