Russia allows overland Germany army shipments to Afghanistan
by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) Nov 20, 2008
Russia said Thursday it has authorised the transport of German military equipment to Afghanistan through Russian territory, the first time it has authorised such a transit by a foreign state.
Russian authorities on November 10 "issued a permit for... the rail transit through Russian territory of arms, military equipment and military property of the Bundeswehr to Afghanistan," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
"This will be the first experience of this kind between Russia and a foreign state, emphasizing the close cooperation with Germany in the sphere of cooperation in countering mutual problems and threats to security," it added.
Russia has since April allowed the transit of non-military supplies through Russian territory for countries such as France and Germany contributing to the NATO force in Afghanistan.
But this is the first time Russia has allowed military hardware to pass over its soil and the fact the agreement is with Germany is richly symbolic given the hostility in World War II.
The German shipments would use Russia's vast rail network which leads into Siberia and then connects into Central Asian countries towards Afghanistan.
The foreign ministry said that the issue was discussed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a summit meeting in Saint Petersburg on October 2.
Relations between Russia and NATO have suffered a deep chill over Moscow's war with Georgia in August but the two sides have maintained a close cooperation over Afghanistan.
NATO's 53,000-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is struggling to put down a Taliban-led insurgency amid increasing violence.
Germany has a contingent of about 3,300 soldiers in Afghanistan, with most of the troops stationed in the north of the country.