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Russia to Close Radar Station in Azerbaijan 12 décembre 2012

Posted by Acturca in Caucasus / Caucase, Middle East / Moyen Orient, Russia / Russie, Turkey / Turquie.
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The New York Times (USA) Wednesday, December 12, 2012, p. A15

By David M. Herszenhorn, Moscow

The Russian government said Tuesday that it would shut down operations at a major radar station in Gabala, Azerbaijan, that can detect missile launchings throughout the Middle East, after failing to reach an agreement on a new lease with the Azeri government.

The radar station was built in 1985 when Russia and Azerbaijan were still part of the Soviet Union. For the past decade, Russia has paid Azerbaijan $7 million a year in rent for the facility, along with other operational charges. With the lease set to expire, the two countries had been in protracted negotiations over new terms, with Azerbaijan demanding $300 million a year.

The Azeri Foreign Ministry said that when no deal was reached, the Russian side decided to walk away.

« Throughout negotiations, the Republic of Azerbaijan demonstrated its readiness to continue to cooperate with the Russian Federation, » a ministry statement said. « However, the negotiations have failed to agree on a new rent price. »

A spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said that other radar stations could serve the same function without risk to the country’s national security.

« Russia has the potential to compensate for Gabala should the station stop functioning, » the spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told Russian journalists, according to the news agency Interfax.

Some Russian officials said that missile launchings in the Middle East could be monitored just as well by an early-warning radar installation at Armavir in the Krasnodar region of Russia.

Gabala is one of several important installations that Russia has leased from former Soviet republics; others include the headquarters of its Black Sea fleet in Ukraine and the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan.

Azerbaijan’s insistence on a steep rent increase seemed to signal a new assertiveness that could encourage other nations to challenge Moscow. Officials in Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, said they did not expect the differences over the lease to harm overall relations with Russia.

Alexander Cooley, a political science professor at Barnard College who is an expert on the former Soviet republics, said that Russia had not previously encountered hard bargaining over leases to former Soviet facilities.

« I think this would be the first case of an actual eviction or nonrenewal, » Mr. Cooley said in a telephone interview. « All the other ones they have re-upped. »

He said the Gabala situation seemed to follow an older pattern in which newly independent countries make heavy demands of their former rulers. « This kind of hard bargaining tactic is typical of what you see in other cases of imperial disengagement, » he said, citing as examples the former colonial possessions of Britain and France.


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