Prague, 11 March 1997 (RFE/RL) - NATO's Secretary General Javier Solana arrived today in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek on the second stop in his five-day tour of Central Asian countries.
Solana will meet tomorrow with President Askar Akayev, Prime Minister Apas Joumagulov and other leading politicians to discuss participation in the alliance's Partnership For Peace program before joint peacekeeping exercises in the region this September. The exercises will take place in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and involve soldiers from more than 10 countries.
Before arriving in Bishkek Solana held talks in Almaty with Kazakh political leaders. Solana assured them that NATO's planned eastward expansion was not a threat to Kazakhstan but created an opportunity for closer cooperation between Almaty and NATO under the Partnership for Peace program.
While a Central Asian battalion of Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Uzbek troops will take part in the September "Partnership" exercises, Turkmen officials have said no decision has been made, so far, on whether Turkmen troops will participate. All countries on the territory of the former USSR, except Tajikistan, have joined NATO's "Partnership for Peace" program.
Solana also said that talks between NATO and Russia over future relations are moving forward despite remaining differences. Moscow continues to oppose NATO's planned eastward expansion into Central and Eastern Europe.