Russia, U.S. sign deal on military transit to Afghanistan

Other News Materials 6 July 2009 23:52 (UTC +04:00)

Russia and the United States signed on Monday an agreement on military transit, both overland and by air, via Russian territory to Afghanistan, RIA Novosti reported.

The deal was signed at Kremlin talks during President Barack Obama's first visit to Russia and was praised by the U.S. leader as Moscow's willingness to help in the war against the Taliban.

Russia was reported to allow 4,500 flights a year to carry U.S. troops and weapons to the country across its territory free of charge.

"President Medvedev and I have agreed on the need to combat the threat of violent extremism, particularly from Al-Qaeda," Obama said at a joint news conference after the talks.

"This is a substantial contribution by Russia to an international effort. It will save the United States time and resources for giving our troops the support they need," he said.

Russia already has bilateral transit deals with Germany, France and Spain, and has also signed an agreement with NATO in 2008 on rail transit of non-lethal supplies to Afghanistan.

The U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has about 62,000 troops in Afghanistan under a UN mandate to give security support to the Afghan government and stop the flow of drugs from the country.

President Obama has recently pledged to increase U.S. military personnel numbers sent to the war-ravaged country.

In a joint statement following the summit, the presidents also pledged to boost financial intelligence in order to crack down on illegal money flows from Afghan drug trafficking

It was one of a series of deals agreed on by the presidents as part of their pledges to "reset" ties strained over a host of issues under the previous U.S. administration.

Medvedev and Obama also agreed to resume bilateral military cooperation suspended after Russia's war with Georgia last August, one of the issues that plunged ties between the former Cold War adversaries to a new low.