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NATO strikes supply route deal through Central Asia

05 June, 2012

BRUSSELS: NATO has struck a deal with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to remove equipment through their territories as it winds down the Afghan operation, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Monday.

"We reached agreement on reverse transit from Afghanistan with three Central Asian partners, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan," Rasmussen said at a news conference.

"These agreements will give us a range of new options and the robust and flexible transport network we need," he added, without offering more detail on the accords. Transit routes for the withdrawal are proving a major headache for the US-led ISAF operation in Afghanistan, with massive amounts of materiel dispatched in the decade-long war to be pulled out by the end-2014 deadline from a country ringed by high mountain passes.

The Brussels-headquartered alliance is also discussing with Russia the possibility of using Vostochny airport near Ulyanovsk, 900 kilometres east of Moscow, as a transit centre for non-lethal equipment from Afghanistan.

Washington meanwhile continues to press Pakistan to reopen routes blocked six months ago in retaliation for the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers killed by mistake by US strikes on a border post. "I still hope that a solution can be found in the very near future," Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen also announced his first-ever visit to Australia as the 28-nation alliance prepares to strengthen ties with non-NATO nations supporting its Afghan mission.

Announcing the trip next week to Australia only hours before meeting New Zealand Prime Minister John Key in Brussels, Rasmussen said, "Both countries are making a real difference to our mission in Afghanistan. Countries such as Australia and New Zealand may be far away geographically, but they are very close to us in terms of values and commitment."

Edn.

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