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Belarus/Russia: Countries Move Towards Integration

Moscow, 7 March 1997 (RFE/RL) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed today with Belarus President Alyaksandr Lukashenka a statement that would bring the two countries closer to unification.

According to the statement, which is non-binding, Russia and Belarus pledge to work to integrate their customs, fiscal, transport and energy systems.

The statement however does not provide a clear vision of the proposed union between the two countries. A pact on forming an economic "community" was signed in April 1996 but little concrete progress has been made since then in furthering integration.

Later today Lukashenka had talks with RUssian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. After the meeting the two leaders announced that an agreement on the next step in the integration process was being worked out and would be signed on April 2, the first anniversary of the signing of the "community" pact.