"As to the purchase and delivery of helicopters [for Afghanistan], the NATO secretary general made a proposal to us when he was in Moscow in December last year, and we said we were ready to consider it in the context of a joint trust fund, which would ensure shared financing of these deliveries," Lavrov said after a meeting with his Afghan counterpart, Zalmay Rassoul, in Moscow.
"However, some problems have come up on the NATO side, and several options are being considered at present which may help, I hope, to reach an agreement to strengthen the Afghan army with additional Russian helicopters," the minister said.
Russia earlier said it was ready either to supply 21 Mi-17 helicopters under a possible NATO contract or to be part of a U.S.-run tender for supplying helicopters to the Afghan military. Moscow refused to deliver the helicopters free-of-charge.
The Mi-171 is an export version of the Mi-8 Hip helicopter. Currently in production at two factories in the Russian Volga area city of Kazan and the East Siberian city of Ulan-Ude, it features more powerful turboshaft engines and can transport up to 37 passengers.
In May, the United States lifted sanctions against Rosoboronexport, blacklisting it from tendering for U.S. arms deals. The sanctions were imposed in 2006 after the U.S. government accused Rosoboronexport of violating the nuclear non-proliferation regime.
Despite the ban, dozens of Mi-17s have been bought by the United States for Afghanistan and Iraq over the past four years via intermediaries as commercial items, thus avoiding direct contacts with Rosoboronexport.
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