Russia has extended its lease of a key military base in Tajikistan for 30 years in a deal that strengthens Moscow’s strategic position in the region ahead of NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan.

An agreement prolonging Russia’s military presence in Tajikistan till 2042 was signed by the Defence Ministers in the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who paid a two-day visit to Dushanbe.

Mr. Putin and Tajik President Imomali Rakhmon said in a joint statement they considered “stopping the threat of terrorism and drug trafficking from the territory of Afghanistan as one of their priorities in efforts to maintain regional stability”.

Largest base

Russia will continue using the military base, set up in 1993, “practically free”, said Yuri Ushakov, Mr. Putin’s foreign policy aide. In return, Russia will rearm and train the Tajik armed forces.

Tajikistan dropped its demand that Moscow pay $250 million a year to continue using the base. Russia has about 7,000 troops stationed at the facility, making it Russia’s largest military base on foreign soil.

Last month, Mr. Putin sealed a similar deal with Kyrgyzstan, extending till 2032 the lease of the Russian air base in Kant near the capital Bishkek and a number of other military facilities in the former Soviet republic, which has a common border with Tajikistan.

Working-age population

Mr. Ushakov said Moscow would allow more Tajik workers to come to Russia. As of 2011, more than 1.1 million Tajiks — a third of the country’s working-age population — earned their living in Russia sending back home about $3 billion, which accounts for close to a half of Tajikistan’s Gross Domestic Product.

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