Putin Other Leaders Arrive in Armenia for Defense Summit

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Leaders of Russia and four other former Soviet republics converged on Yerevan Thursday for the CIS Collective Security Council Summit. Tight security measures were in place as motorcades of the five presidents–including Russia’s Vladimir Putin–raced through the city center. Police vehicles patrolled the 10-kilometer highway linking Zvartnots Airport to the capital. The road was closed to traffic for much of the day.

The signatories of the Collective Security Treaty (CST) – Armenia–Belarus–Kazakhstan–Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan–Russia – will on Friday hold a one-day session aimed at giving a new boost to their military cooperation.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev arrived in Yerevan on Wednesday–starting a two-day official visit preceding the summit. Nazarbayev said on Thursday that he was against an Azerbaijani proposal at a recent summit of Turkic-speaking states to accuse Armenia of "military aggression" because he thought the move would "complicate" resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The Azerbaijani delegation tried unsuccessfully to include the passage in the final communiqu of last month’s meeting in Istanbul of the presidents of Turkey–Azerbaijan–Turkmen’stan–Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

"Statemen’s like that do not resolve anything," Nazarbayev said. "They only worsen relations between states and peoples."

The Kazakh president was speaking at a meeting with the faculty of Yerevan State University on the second day of his visit to Armenia. He said the forum of the Turkic-speaking nations should not acquire a strong political dimension. Its main mission should be the promotion of cultural links between the ethnically close peoples populating the vast geographical area–Nazarbayev added.

"We are talking about normal inter-state relationships–about cultural and economic links between normal people with the same language roots and history," he said. "Therefore–turning such meetings into a means for solving certain political issues and for drawing us into conflicts is not acceptable."

Nazarbayev also stated that policy of talking about the Armenian Genocide is wrong when it aggravates relations between countries. He stressed–however–his unwillingness to interfere in the internal affairs of either Armenia or Turkey.

Qualifying the great losses suffered by the Kazakh people in the years of Stalin’s policy of collectivization as "genocide" (according to Nazarbayev–40% of the Kazakh people perished at that time)–he pointed out that any murder of innocent people is a genocide. At the same time–the Kazakh president expressed doubts about the advisability of "concentrating on the events that occurred a hundred years ago." According to him–it means remembering bad things without wishing good. It all depends on what goals are being pursued by those speaking about the Genocide. Nazarbayev said that no compensation is possible–nevertheless–"political recognition is possible–but what will be the result – aggravated relations between the countries."If it did take place–one must admit it and leave it to history–continuing to do good deeds that are needed today," Nazarbayev said.

Vladimir Putin–the first Russian president to visit Armenia’since 1991–met his Armenian counterpart Robert Kocharian shortly after his arrival from the flood-stricken eastern Siberia. The two men discussed bilateral relations and the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict–Kocharian’s press service said. They "exchanged thoughts" on the recent developmen’s in the Karabakh peace process.

Armenia and Russia–which have maintained close military links since the break-up of the Soviet Union–will use the summit to formalize their decision to form a joint military contingent to be deployed near Armenia’s border with Turkey within the CST framework. Armenian officials have said the joint unit could have up to 10,000 soldiers and over a hundred pieces of military hardware.

The summit will also approve plans for the creation of a "rapid reaction force" to counter what the treaty’s signatories see as an Islamist threat to the ex-Soviet republics of Central Asia. Armenia and Belarus will not commit troops for the force. The six leaders will issue a joint statement expressing their intention to strengthen CST structures that are still taking shape.

The treaty was originally singed in 1992 by nine out of twelve members of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Three of them – Azerbaijan–Georgia and Uzbekistan – refused to renew their participation in the joint defense framework two years ago on the grounds that it had proved ineffective and too dependent on Russia.

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