Tajikistan wants to continue negotiation with Russia over mutual flights
Tajikistan intends to continue negotiations with Russia over mutual flights and Tajik civil aviation authorities have invited Russian counterparts to arrive in Tajikistan.
Tajik Minister of Transport, Sherali Ganjalzoda, told Asia-Plus yesterday that they are waiting for the Russian civil aviation authorities response to their letter. “We have invited our Russian counterparts to arrive in Tajikistan for continuation of consultations,” the minister said.
He added that the Tajik civil aviation authorities were also ready to travel to Moscow for continuation of the negotiations.
Meanwhile, Russian media outlets report that the Russian Ministry of Transport has agreed to continue the negotiations but only under the condition that the Tajik civil authorities will fulfill agreements reached between the two countries on November 8, 2016 and allow the Yamal Airlines to operate flights to Dushanbe and Khujand from Russia’s Zhukovsky International Airport.
The history of this dispute dates back to early November. The two countries faced the threat of suspension of flights in early November because of a dispute between Moscow and Dushanbe over the status of Russia’s Zhukovsky International Airport, which was officially opened in May 2016.
Dushanbe called for a revision of existing bilateral agreements on mutual air flights, saying that Zhukovsky is Moscow’s fourth international airport and that it has increased the number of flights from Moscow to Tajikistan.
The Russian civil aviation authorities insisted that Zhukovsky International Airport is not under Moscow’s authority but of the town of Ramenskoye.
Russia's Transport Ministry said on November 3 that it would suspend flights to Tajikistan from November 8 unless Tajik aviation authorities change their position on the Zhukovsky airport near Moscow.
Following the talks that took place in Moscow on November 7, Tajik and Russian civil aviation authorities agreed to maintain and develop air traffic, and in particular reached an agreement on flights to Tajikistan from Zhukovsky International Airport near Moscow.
Trouble resumed on December 21, when Russia again threatened to close its airspace to Tajik airlines if Dushanbe would not agree to admit flights from Russian air company, Yamal Airlines.
Tajikistan’s civil aviation authorities on December 21 just an hour before midnight agreed to temporarily allow flights by Russia’s Yamal Airlines to Dushanbe from Zhukovsky International Airport.
Tajikistan has allowed Yamal Airlines to operate just one chartered flight from Zhukovsky airport to Dushanbe on December 22 to take out about 100 passengers who were stranded in Zhukovsky airport for two days.
Tajik authorities have questioned the legitimacy of the Yamal flights, but agreed to continue talks on the matter after Russia lifted its threat to stop all flights to Tajikistan.
Tajikistan’s Ministry of Transport said that during the November negotiations, Tajikistan agreed only to flights for Ural Airlines and Tajik Air, and that there was no mention of Yamal Airlines.
Tajik authorities said allowing the Yamal flights would break the parity of Russia and Tajikistan in the number of airlines allowed flying between Moscow and Tajikistan.
“To operate regular flights to Tajikistan, Yamal Airlines needs to get official permit from Tajikistan’s civil aviation authorities. “Yamal Airlines will not be given the permit within the next two months,” a source at Tajikistan’s Ministry of Transport told Asia-Plus on December 22.
A statement released by the Tajik civil aviation authorities on December 22, in particular, notes that “since the Tajik side has not yet appointed the second air carrier on this route and for the purpose of observing the parity of Tajikistan and Russia in the number of airlines flying between Tajikistan and Moscow, it appears impossible to give operating permit to Yamal Airlines for 2016-2017 winter season.”
In response to this, Moscow suspended flights of Tajik privately owned air carrier, Somon Air, to the Russian regions starting from 00:00 am on December 23. According to the Russian Ministry of Transport, it includes flights of the airline to all Russian cities, except Moscow and St. Petersburg.