CIS Defense Chiefs Meet in Yerevan

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Senior defense officials from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) met in Yerevan on Friday to discuss strengthening military ties among the twelve former Soviet republics.

According to Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov–who heads the CIS Council of Defense Ministers–the two-hour meeting marked "yet another positive step to develop military cooperation" across the former Soviet Union. "We considered the pressing issues of improving multilateral military and military-technical cooperation," he told a news conference.

Ivanov said the Council made a number of "important decisions" that will lead to the creation of a CIS peace-keeping force–the setting up of a system of interstate military communication–and improved safety of military aircraft flights. He said the participants also approved plans for the strengthening of a single air defense system covering much of the Soviet Union.

It remained unclear–however–whether the arrangemen’s will encompass all CIS countries. Six of them–including Armenia–are part of the Russian-dominated Collective Security Treaty (CST) organization and are bound by a formal commitment to defend each other in the event of a military aggression. The treaty signatories regularly hold joint military exercises and receive Russian military supplies on privileged terms.

But the other CIS countries are more wary of close military ties with Moscow. Some of them–including neighboring Georgia and Azerbaijan–as well as Ukraine–have openly expressed their desire to join NATO. Ukraine was represented at the meeting by its military attach in Yerevan–while Uzbekistan sent a liaison officer representing its military in Moscow.

Azerbaijan and Turkmen’stan avoided any participation in the Yerevan meeting–with Baku attributing its boycott to the unresolved conflict over Mountainous Karabagh. "We don’t knock on the enemy’s door," a spokeswoman for the Azeri Defense Ministry was quoted as saying.

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