CIS Defense Chiefs Arrive in Armenia for Meeting

YEREVAN (RFE/RL–Noyan Tapan)–Defense ministers from Commonwealth of Independent States member-countries arrived in Yerevan on Wednesday for a session of their permanent council. The meeting is scheduled for Thursday–with the "development of military cooperation" among twelve former Soviet republics high on agenda–according to the Armenian defense ministry.

Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev told reporters at the Yerevan airport that the meeting is aimed at launching "practical work" in the field of CIS defense cooperation. Officials in Yerevan say defense ministers of Moldova and Azerbaijan–with which Armenia is locked in a conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh–were not expected to take part in the gathering. It was not clear how many ministers arrived in Yerevan.

As CIS defense leaders prepared for talks–the CIS executive secretary Yuri Yarov was discussing with Armenian leaders ways of reforming the largely ineffectual organization. Yarov told the press that his meeting with President Robert Kocharian focused on issues related to the establishment of a post-Soviet "free economic zone." The agreement on a free trade regime was signed by CIS leaders in 1994–but has not come into effect yet.

Yarov–who is touring the three Transcaucasian states–also said he presented to Kocharian his proposals on how to reform the CIS structures.

The Noyan Tapan news agency reported that the following delegations will attend a regular meeting of the Council of Defense Minister of CIS which is scheduled for Thursday in Yerevan: a working group of the Coordinating Headquarters for CIS military cooperation led by General-Lieutenant Leonid Maltsev; a delegation of CIS executive secretariat led by chief of the department for military issues Oleg Putintsev; and a delegation of the CIS Collective Security Secretariat led by Secretary General of the Council–Ambassador Vladimir Zemsky.

Countries which agreed to extend the CIS Collective Security Treaty will be represented by defense ministers. The Russian delegation will be led by defense minister Marshal Igor Sergeyev; the Belarussian delegation will be led by defense minister Colonel General Aleksander Chumakov; the delegation of Kazakhstan–by defense minister Colonel General Mukhtar Altynbayev; the delegation of Tajikistan–by defense minister Colonel General Sherali Khayruloyev; the delegation of Kyrgyzstan–by defense minister Colonel General Mirzakan Subanov.

Countries which are not going to extend their participation in the CIS Collective Security Treatment–or do not participate in it will be represented in the following manner: the delegation of Ukraine by the first deputy defense minister Colonel General Ivan Bizhan; and the delegation of Georgia–by deputy defense minister Major General Omari Lekveishvili.

Armenia will be represented by defense minister Vazgen Sargsyan.

Armenia and Belarus are expected to sign an intergovernmental agreement within the framework of the meeting of CIS defense ministers.

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