Moscow: Bolstering Moscow`s defence clout in
the strategic Caucasus region, Russia and Armenia today signed
an agreement to extend the lease of its military base in the
former Soviet republic through 2044.
The deal, inked during Russian President Dmitry
Medvedev`s visit to Yerevan, saw the term of the 1995 treaty
that allowed on hosting military base till 2020 in Gyumri,
Armenia`s second largest city near its border with Turkey - a
NATO member, extended from 25 to 49 years.
According to Russian media reports the agreement was
signed by the defence ministers of the two countries after
summit talks between Medvedev and his Armenian host Serzh
Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said the the
only thing that had changed in the 1995 treaty was the length
of the lease.
"One thing has changed - the extension to 49 years,"
Serdyukov was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.
However, he emphasised that "there was no money involved"
in extending the lease.
Georgia, a NATO aspirant, has flayed the agreement
saying since the Soviet times there was no such large military
presence (of Russia) in the Caucasus and this can only cause
concern for it, Ekho Moskvy radio reported.
Russia fought a five day war with Georgia after Abkhazia
and South Ossetia broke away with Tbilisi two-year ago. Moscow
has already set up two separate military bases under security
pacts with them.
Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan, which has an old
conflict with Armenia over annexation of Nagorno-Karabakh by
Yerevan, expressed hope that Russian base will not be used for
aggression against it, the radio reported.
Russian 102nd Military Base has been deployed in
Gyumri since 1995 and is part of a Commonwealth of Independent
States integrated air defence system under the command of
North Caucasus Military District, which was directly involved
in hostilities with Georgia two years ago.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defence Minister
Serdyukov said the deployment for Russian troops had been
agreed for a long time and were not affected by the new
document and their mission has not changed.
According to the media there are around 5,000 Russian
personnel, as well as S-300 surface-to-air missile systems and
MiG-29 fighters are deployed on the Gyumri base.
Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandyan said
earlier in the week that Russia would also provide Armenia
with arms and modern military equipment.