Russia and Azerbaijan have made “some progress” in settling their dispute over Moscow’s lease of the Gabala missile defense radar, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Tuesday.
“We are now closer to ending [negotiations] than previously,” Ryabkov told journalists in Moscow.
He said, however, that “some issues related to lease payment and conditions” still remain.
The minister stressed that the Russian foreign and defense ministries treat the Gabala radar talks with Azerbaijan as a “priority.”
Russia has been in talks with Azerbaijan to extend the lease of the Soviet-era radar, which it has operated in line with a 2002 deal. The current agreement is due to expire on December 24.
The Russian daily Kommersant newspaper reported in late February that Azerbaijan had demanded Russia pay $300 million instead of the previously agreed $7 million for the lease, which Russia is seeking to extend until 2025.
Sources in the Russian Defense Ministry were quoted as saying the price demanded by Baku was “unreasonably large.”
The deputy director of the Institute of Political and Military Analysis, Alexander Khramchikhin, has said the end of the Gabala radar lease will do no “real damage” to Russia’s defense capabilities because another radar, constructed in the southern Russian town of Armavir, would cover the area of the Gabala radar.
The Voronezh-class radar in Armavir in the Black Sea area is currently operating in test mode and is a serious breakthrough when compared to the previous generation Dnepr and Daryal class radars, which the Gabala radar belongs to.