Kazakh President Arrives in Armenia

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev arrived in Armenia on Wednesday for an official visit timed to precede a summit of six CIS republics comprising a defense alliance. Nazarbayev met his Armenian counterpart–Robert Kocharian–to discuss bilateral ties and broader security issues.

The meeting was followed by the signing of several intergovernmental agreemen’s and a formal exchange of ratifications of the Kazakh-Armenian treaty on "friendship and cooperation" signed during Kocharian’s visit to the vast Central Asian country in 1999. The exchange marked the document’s entry into force. Nazarbayev said the existing legal framework creates a strong basis for the development of the bilateral relationship.

Armenia and Kazakhstan are signatories to the Collective Security Treaty (CST) sealed in 1992. Leaders of the signatory states–which also include Belarus–Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan–will converge on the Armenian capital tomorrow for a two-day meeting that will focus on ways of deepening their military cooperation.

The executive secretary of the CST staff–Valeri Nikolaenko–told reporters in Yerevan that the summit will also map out joint steps to combat "international terrorism and other manifestations of extremism." He said the six presidents–including Russia’s Vladmir Putin–will also seek to strengthen the loose CST structures by introducing among other things a one-year rotating presidency of the alliance to be assumed first by Armenia.

The summit will also approve plans for the creation of a "rapid reaction force" to counter what the six countries see as an Islamist threat to Central Asia. Armenia and Belarus will not be part of the force though.

Yerevan has instead agreed to set up a joint military contingent with Russian troops stationed in Armenia which is supposed to reinforce the "Caucasian direction" of the CST.

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