World Bulletin / News Desk
Russia and Tajikistan have agreed in principle to extend Moscow's lease on a military base in the strategically located country for another 49 years, Russian and Tajik officials said on Tuesday.
Former imperial master Russia views ex-Soviet Central Asia as its sphere of influence and, as NATO plans to pull out of next-door Afghanistan in 2014, is keen to retain its military presence in the often turbulent region.
The current base lease due to expire on Jan. 1, 2014.
"The defence ministries of Russia and Tajikistan have reached agreement. The base will stay for another 49 years without any compensation to be paid," a senior Tajik official close to the talks told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
"We accepted these conditions in response to Russia's commitment to assist in arming Tajikistan by supplying weapons to the republic at reduced prices," the source said.
Russian news agencies quoted Vladimir Chirkin, commander of Russian land forces, as confirming Russia's 6,000 troops would remain stationed in Tajikistan, Russia's largest military deployment abroad.
The Tajik official close to the talks said Tajikistan was forced to accept Russia's terms over the base because it "has no trump cards in its play with Russia".
"If we reject Russia's terms, it will be able to pressure us, while we won't have anything to resist it," he said. "Let's face the truth: we have unstable Afghanistan in the south and Uzbekistan, which is far from being friendly, to the west and the north."
Tajikistan, which has a population of 7.5 million, is the poorest of the 15 ex-Soviet republics. Cash remittances from the estimated 1 million Tajiks who work abroad, mainly in Russia, help keep its rickety economy afloat.
Russia used its troops deployed in Tajikistan to support the country's secular government, which fought Muslims during a 1992-97 civil war, shoring up Rakhmon's presidency.
"I believe Rakhmon will never be openly opposed to the presence of the 201st base," Tajik political analyst Zafar Abdullayev said.
Environment minister says target reached before deadline, but extra 30 to 50 percent cut needed for significant improvement
A suicide attack targeting a senior Afghan election commission official has killed one guard and injured several others in capital Kabul Saturday. Hawliya Rodwal, Kabul provincial director of the commission, escaped the blast unhurt.
The military has confirmed that an Indonesian ‘expert bomb-maker’ was found among 8 fighters killed in firefight earlier this week
Weapons makers bid to supply new submarines to Australia, after Japan lifts ban that prohibited weapons sales in line with post-WWII pacifistic constitution
Week of Peace events in troubled Philippines south aim to bring different religious communities together, heal rifts of recent years
Police say muezzin has been killed and three worshippers wounded in the shooting, a rare attack on minority Shiite Muslims
Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau says pollutants emitted by vehicles in city will be cut by as much as 30 percent by 2022
Provoking anger and amusement, Taiwanese flag appeared alongside in ISIL propaganda video released listed Taiwan as one of Washington's 'close counterterrorism partners' in Asia-Pacific
China calls for peace and stability after Japan, US agree to continue drills in disputed sea
Minister says violence not the answer as police hunt continues for ISIL militants in mountains of Indonesia's north
Haroon Bhatti, founding member of outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group, was arrested in Dubai last month and brought back to Pakistan
Muslims in Myanmar have been banned from printing their own calendars, with senior Buddhist monks imploring for stricter sentencing on the publisher and his associates.
PM Abe says Japan to pledge $10.6 billion for climate policies in developing countries
'Tragic but avoidable accident (was) caused primarily by human error,' General John Campbell says
Japanese, US officials decide to hold joint exercises in contested sea amid China's maritime expansion
'Seven people - six pilgrims and the lady pilot - died in the crash,' a police official says