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.
"A North Korean soldier defected to one of our Guard Posts at around 9:30 p.m. on Friday at the middle section of the border," the spokesman said, according to a report by the Yonhap news agency.
Seoul counters flurry of North Korean missile tests with own experiment
The first such lynching in Kashmir is condemned by Kashmir resistance leader, calling it 'un-Islamic'
Rebuffing Russian media reports, Astana says it contributes to Syrian settlement via providing talks
Security forces say Quetta car bomb exploded near provincial police HQ
Men killed during two-day clearance operation near border with Bangladesh, according to Office of State Counselor
Terrorist gang led by brothers attempting to establish ISIL territory in Mindanao, government says
Group behind last July's attempted putsch in Turkey also poses danger to Japan, Mevlut Cavusoglu says
Kabul says it was not consulted, fencing will divide tribes living at the Durand Line
Mevlut Cavusoglu meets representatives of business and tourism sectors
Scholarships will be granted over the next ten years, Chinese foreign minister says
Number of oppressed Rohingya refugees rose over 30,000 since the previous year, says report
The MT Putri Sea, registered in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, went down on Thursday in a busy shipping lane off the southern state of Johor, near Singapore.
Seoul kept in dark over welfare of at least six South Koreans currently incarcerated in North
Latest attack in Pakistan’s Gwadar district comes days after an alleged terrorist threat was thwarted in Iran’s Chabahar