ALMATY, November 18 (RIA Novosti)
Russia and Azerbaijan are close to signing a document extending the lease of the Gabala radar in the Central Asian republic until 2025.
Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and his Azeri counterpart Col. Gen. Safar Abiyev discussed the preparation of the extension agreement at bilateral talks on the sidelines of the 61st meeting of the Council of the CIS Defense Ministers on Thursday.
“The sides agreed to step up work with the goal to prepare a document that would formalize the agreements between Russia and Azerbaijan on this issue as soon as possible,” said Lt. Col. Irina Kovalchuk, press secretary of the Russian defense minister.
The radar, located near the town of Minchegaur, 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the capital Baku, was leased to Russia for 10 years in 2002. The lease expires on December 24, 2012.
Russia pays the annual Gabala rent of $7 million to Azerbaijan under the current agreement.
According to various sources, Baku is asking for a higher rent, a compensation for environmental impact on the area, and wider employment opportunities for Azeri citizens servicing the Russian personnel at the radar facility, as part of the new agreement.
The Gabala radar, also known as the Daryal Information and Analytical Center, is an important element of the Russian missile defense network.
The radar has been operational since early 1985. Russia says that with its range of 6,000 kilometers (3,700 miles), it is the most powerful in the region and can detect any missile launches in Asia, the Middle East and most parts of Africa.