Leaders from the Commonwealth of Independent States held a summit in Moscow today to mark the occasion of the alliance's 10th anniversary. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev spoke to reporters ahead of the gathering about a variety of topics, ranging from CIS issues and Kazakh-Russian relations to the situation in Afghanistan.
Moscow, 30 November 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin today welcomed leaders from the former Soviet republics to Moscow for the 10th anniversary summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
Before beginning a close-door meeting at the Kremlin, Putin thanked the 12 CIS leaders for coming to the anniversary despite domestic problems which, he said, demand "immediate resolution."
Putin said the summit would be devoted to examining the current situation in the CIS and -- as he put it -- "looking a bit into the future." The leaders are expected to issue a joint statement on Afghanistan and to discuss procedures for the conduct of antiterrorist operations in the CIS.
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev is one of the CIS leaders in Moscow to attend today's summit. He spoke to reporters yesterday about a variety of issues important to his country and also, as Putin said, "looked a bit into the future."
In his comments, Nazarbaev praised the CIS and pointed out how important the past 10 years have been for each of the 12 nations belonging to the union. During this time, he said, each of the countries has strengthened its unique national identity. But now, he pointed out, the 12 countries must also remember what they have in common:
"Now, I think, it is time to remember that our countries have [in common] the experience of living together. [They have] a common history, a common mentality and a common language that unifies us -- I mean the Russian language. We have such starting conditions now that the European Union could only dream of some time ago [when they decided to unite]."
Nazarbaev said the CIS countries should have their own internal economic market and should pattern their grouping after the European Union. He said this is a time in history when countries are joining together, not isolating themselves, and that the CIS should follow this example, too.
Nazarbaev also made a call to the CIS's oil-producing countries to establish an organization similar to OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries:
"I made a proposal to the Russian president. We should set up our oil and gas alliance in the CIS. For example, it is now evident that Kazakhstan and Russia are going to be the main oil exporters in our region. We can ask Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan to join."
Nazarbaev said relations between Russia and Kazakhstan are smooth and that in his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the two leaders spoke about increasing the economic links between their two nations.
Nazarbaev and Putin also spoke about customs tariffs. According to Nazarbaev, only 60 percent of customs tariffs have been coordinated between the two countries. Nazarbaev believes that the more customs tariffs are coordinated, the bigger will be the level of trade turnover between Russia and Kazakhstan.
Putin, for his part, is quoted by news agencies as saying trade turnover between Kazakhstan and Russia amounted to $3.6 billion in the first nine months of this year, and he said it will continue to grow.
Putin also said the two presidents had successfully discussed a number of joint projects. Nazarbaev said serious bilateral projects are being prepared in the energy sphere. He did not elaborate.
Nazarbaev also spoke about the ongoing U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. He said Kazakhstan is prepared to station forces of the U.S.-led antiterrorist coalition in his country but that, so far, Kazakhstan has not been asked:
"We said that we would have supported [the U.S.-led antiterrorist coalition] with all our means. But up until now, we had not received any such call. If such proposals were made, then Kazakhstan will consider them positively."
Kazakhstan, though it does not share a border with Afghanistan, was among the first countries in Central Asia to offer the use of its airbases for U.S. military operations.
Nazarbaev said the problem of terrorism in Afghanistan is directly linked to the problem of poverty. The people of Afghanistan, he said, have been living in a constant state of war for many than 20 years. Now, he said, the United Nations, at its current conference near Bonn, Germany, should help build a government where all Afghan ethnic groups are represented:
"The problem now is how the situation in a post-war Afghanistan is going to be. I believe that there should be a coalition government [that represents all ethnic groups] formed under the United Nation's guide. This government should be able to keep the territory of Afghanistan open and transparent. People should know if in Afghanistan there are [terrorists] or places where drugs are grown. Afterwards, there should be an economic rehabilitation of the country. The people [of Afghanistan] should be helped to get out from poverty and they should be given jobs. These people did not see anything in their lives in the past 20 years except war. We are ready to help this process."
Nazarbaev said Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan yesterday signed a bilateral agreement on dividing up Caspian Sea resources. They agreed the Caspian seabed should be divided into national sectors, while the water should be left for common use.
Yesterday, Nazarbaev met with U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham at the Kazakh embassy to discuss U.S. investments in the fuel and energy industry of Kazakhstan.
Nazarbaev said his country welcomes foreign investments. He pointed out that over the past 10 years his country has attracted $20 billion in investment, including $12 billion worth of direct investments. The oil sector accounts for some 65 percent of direct investments, he said.
Moreover, Nazarbaev said, Kazakhstan is creating a Development Bank to give credits for important projects in the country. The bank's capital, he said, will reach $150 million.