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Czech delegation to NATO summit meets Afghan President

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Warsaw, July 9 (CTK special correspondents) – The possibility of repairing Afghan helicopters and training Afghan helicopter pilots in the Czech Republic was mentioned by Czech President Milos Zeman at a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on the margin of the NATO summit on Saturday.

Czech Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky said the complete overhaul of four Afghan Russian-made helicopters in the Czech LOM Praha firm is almost sure. It will be financed by the United States.

Negotiations on the repairs of other Afhgan Mi type helicopters, of which Afghanistan has several dozens, are underway.

Stropnicky said the state firm LOM Praha, established by the Defence Ministry, could also repair other Afghan helicopters, but no decision has been made as yet.

Besides Zeman, the Czech Republic was also represented at the meeting by the defence and foreign ministers, Martin Stropnicky and Lubomir Zaoralek, respectively, and Hynek Kmonicek, head of the Presidential Office foreign department.

The summit debated the future of the NATO mission to Afghanistan on Saturday.

The Czech Republic promised in the past months to send its units to the country even after 2016. Next year, it wants to have up to 270 soldiers in Afghanistan. The number is to be 20 soldiers lower in 2018.

Another 20 soldiers or military police officers will be assigned to protect the Czech embassy in Kabul.

The mission has already been approved by the Chamber of Deputies. It is yet to be discussed by the Senate and Zeman must also announce his stance on it.

Presently, Czech soldiers guard mainly the allied Bagram base. Others participate in the training of helicopter pilots or operate in the international military hospital at the base at the Kabul airport.

Stropnicky said Czech involvement in Afghanistan will have a similar pattern in the future.

Zaoralek said the Czech government recently approved aid of 40 million crowns to Afghanistan. Half of the sum will be spent on support for the armed forces.

Both Stropnicky and Zaoralek welcomed the United States’ decision to quit the considered lowering of the number of soldiers in Afghanistan.

They said Czech participation in the country is the sixth strongest.

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