Source AP ©

Russian-German deal on cargo flights extended

German Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee said Friday that dispute with Russia that forced Lufthansa Cargo flights to skirt the country's airspace as they flew to Kazakhstan had been resolved through February.

He said in a statement that after talks with his Russian counterpart, Igor Levitin, the airline would be allowed to fly through Russian airspace to a hub in Astana.

Russia had halted such flights last month, saying the airline's permits had not been renewed, but at the same time, it also wanted Lufthansa Cargo to start flying to an airport in Siberia instead.

The Russian government agreed last week to let Lufthansa Cargo resume the flights through Nov. 15. Tiefensee said Friday that the new agreement will let Lufthansa Cargo fly over Russia through the end of February.

"As to the possible relocation of Lufthansa Cargo from Astana to Krasnojarsk in Siberia," he said that would be discussed between the German and Russian transport ministries next month.

In Moscow, Russian Transport Ministry spokesman Timur Khikmatov said no decision has been reached as of today, but said one could come as early as next week.

Lufthansa had no immediate comment on the announcement, but the airline has said before that it has no plans to use Krasnojarsk as a hub, given its lack of infrastructure, technology and inclement weather conditions.

The dispute began Oct. 28 when Russia blocked access to its airspace and sent the airline a letter asking it to use Siberia instead.

The ban had disrupted 49 cargo flights a week, forcing them to fly around Russian airspace to Astana, Lufthansa's main cargo hub on its lucrative routes to Asia. No passenger flights were affected.

Lufthansa Cargo is a subsidiary of Deutsche Lufthansa AG. Shares of Lufthansa fell more than 1 percent to EUR18.25 (US$26.77) in Frankfurt.

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