YEREVAN (combined sources)–A Collective Security Treaty summit was held in Yerevan on Friday. The session–which included leaders of Armenia–Belarus–Kazakhstan–Kyrgyzstan–Tajikistan and Russia was aimed at giving a new boost to military cooperation.
Presidents of the signatory states of the Collective Security Treaty (CST) vowed joint efforts to ward off the perceived threat posed by radical Islamic groups in Central Asia. The members of the defense grouping gave their final go-ahead to the formation of a Russian-led "rapid reaction force" to be headquartered in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek.
"We express serious concern at the growing threat from international terrorism and extremism–which is acquiring a clearly defined transnational and coordinated nature," the six presidents declared in a joint statement at the end of the summit. "We will continue to jointly fight back attempts to disrupt peace and calm in Central Asia," the statement added.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the CST session–President Robert Kocharian said that participation in the treaty is "one of the most important components of the security system of our state." He said the defense grouping plays a "stabilizing role" in the volatile South Caucasus.
Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said the CST is witnessing an important phase of shifting to a new stage of interaction among its members–which supposes a practical formation of a collective security system on the basis of instituting appropriate regional structures. Oskanian said this key task is based on the analyses of the geopolitical situation in the regions of collective security–which have recently seen a number of serious threats.
The Central Asian allies have repeatedly accused the Taliban authorities in Afghanistan of giving financial and logistical support to Islamic fundamentalists challenging the ruling regimes in the region. Moscow frequently refers to the alleged Islamist threat to justify its military campaign in its breakaway republic of Chechnya.
Neighboring Azerbaijan and Georgia withdrew from the CST last year–however–saying that the post-Soviet security framework proved ineffective and is in fact used by Russia to restore its hegemony in the region. The two states have instead been seeking closer ties with NATO and do not rule out eventually applying for membership in the alliance.
Armenia–which will not be involved in the Central Asian force–has underscored its commitment to the CST with the readiness to form a joint military contingent with Russian troops stationed on its territory.
Russian President Putin said the creation of the Russian-Armenian army unit will be "the next step" within the CST framework–but did not specify when the final decision on the joint force will be taken.