Georgia Ukraine and Azerbaijan Pledge Ties

BAKU (Reuters)–Defense ministers from the former Soviet republics of Ukraine–Georgia and Azerbaijan pledged closer military cooperation on Friday and discussed forming a joint peacekeeping force.

Ukraine’s Alexander Kuzmuk–David Tevzadze of Georgia and Azerbaijan’s Safar Abiyev signed a communiqu in the Azeri capital Baku calling for a coordinated approach on ties with NATO and the United Nations and joint military exercises.

The three republics and Moldova–which have accused Russia of fomenting instability in the Caucasus region–have formed an unofficial breakaway bloc inside the successor body to the Soviet Union–the Commonwealth of Independent States.

They view moves towards closer ties in the CIS as a Moscow-led effort to bolster Russia’s strategic role in the former Soviet republics.

Ukraine–Georgia and Azerbaijan called for a joint peacekeeping force and training. Azeri Defense Ministry spokesman Ramiz Melikov said officials had discussed forming a joint peacekeeping contingent to deal with separatist conflicts.

He said such a force could also be used to guarantee the security of a proposed crude oil pipeline from Azerbaijan’s Caspian Sea oil fields that would cross Georgia.

"The ministers were of a united opinion that cooperation–in particular in the area of peacekeeping–is an important factor in strengthening stability and security in Europe," the communiqu said.

Moldovan Defense Minister Valery Passad–who was due to attend the talks–pulled out at the last minute. Officials gave no reason for his absence.

Azerbaijan’s Abiyev criticized of Russia on Thursday for its alleged military support for Armenia. Aliyev criticized Russian shipmen’s of MiG-29 fighter jets and S-300 anti-aircraft systems to Armenian territory. Russia has said the weapons are for the military base it maintains in Armenia.

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