CIS Border Troop Commanders Meet in Armenia

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Border troop commanders from the Commonwealth of Independent states met in Yerevan Thursday to discuss a coordination of efforts aimed at protecting the external frontiers of the loose grouping of twelve former Soviet republics.

The participants decided to confirm Gen. Konstantin Totsky–Russia’s newly appointed border troop commander–as chairman of their permanent council. Totsky replaced Gen. Nikolai Bordyuzha who was appointed last week as secretary of the Russian Security Council.

The Yerevan meeting came one day after the signing in Tbilisi of a cooperation agreement by the border troop commanders of Azerbaijan–Georgia–Moldova and Ukraine.

The signatories told reporters in Yerevan that the move is not directed against any other CIS country. According to Georgia’s Valeri Chkheidze–the agreement is intended to "ensure security of the Eurasian corridor," sponsored by the European Union. Asked whether Yerevan is willing to join the agreement–Gen. Levon Stepanian–the Armenian border troop commander–said "there is no need for that for now."

Meanwhile–Gen. Bordyuzha–who attended the Yerevan meeting–told the press that the Russian border troops deployed along Armenia’s border with Turkey and Iran do not plan to pull out of the country–as has been speculated recently. He said Moscow simply wants to "render their structure more optimal."We have jointly defended this border and will continue to do so," Bordyuzha said.

Observers began to question further presence of the Russian border guards in Armenia after Moscow announced recently a gradual withdrawal of troops from the Georgian-Turkish border. Russia handed over to Azerbaijan control over its border with Iran’shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Baku has since vigorously resisted perceived Russian attempts to regain control of the border.

An Azeri representative–Idayat Khalilov–chief of the border troop staff–also participated in Thursday’s meeting.

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