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Azerbaijan, Russia at Impasse Over Radar Lease

Bilateral negotiations on renewing an agreement that permits Russia to base a critically important radar system in Azerbaijan have reached an impasse, RIA Novosti reported on Thursday (see GSN, March 2).

The Gabala radar plays a key role in Russia's missile defense framework as it monitors Iranian ballistic missile tests and watches for potential missile strikes launched from the Indian Ocean or other southern areas, according to previous reports.

"The Russian military is disappointed by the nonconstructive approach from the Azerbaijani side concerning the talks on extending the lease of the Gabala missile radar," an anonymous Russian Defense Ministry insider said, continuing that Russia would probably remove the system from Azerbaijan if progress is not made in the negotiations.

The 2002 lease deal is set to lapse in late December. 

The Azeri government reportedly is demanding $300 million for the lease to be renewed through 2024 even though the two sides had earlier set the amount at $7 million.

Baku is being unrealistic in its lease demands, particularly as the amount of money sought is equivalent to the expense of building a new radar, the Russian source said. The Gabala radar is also in need of a wholesale refurbishing.

The Kremlin in the past has suggested that missile threat data collected from the Gabala system could be shared with the United States should the two former Cold War enemies agree to cooperate on missile defense (RIA Novosti, May 24).

Moscow has no intention of fielding its advanced Voronezh-class radars in territory outside of Russia, Interfax reported on Wednesday.

"There is a concept that we stick to. And it implies primarily the deployment of radars in our own territory," aerospace defense forces head Lt. Gen. Oleg Ostapenko said to reporters.

"The question is not being considered," the commander said.

The Voronezh-class radar has no equivalent, according to Ostapenko. The long-range missile threat detection technology was earlier reported to have the ability to identify ballistic missiles at maximum ranges of 3,730 miles. Russia on Wednesday activated one of the systems in Siberia (Interfax May 23).

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