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CIS: Yeltsin Holds Weekend Post-Summit Meetings With Heads Of State

Moscow, 31 March 1997 (RFE/RL) - Following Friday's summit of heads of state from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Russian President Boris Yeltsin met separately this weekend with five of the visiting presidents.

Yeltsin's aide for international relations, Dmitry Ryurikov, later told a news conference the Saturday talks focused on security matters.

Interfax reports that Yeltsin promised Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma that he will visit Ukraine by early June, regardless of whether a treaty of friendship has been agreed in advance. Itar-Tass quotes Yeltsin, who has repeatedly postponed a visit, as saying Moscow's relations with Kyiv are good.

Ryurikov described the Yeltsin-Kuchma talks as constructive and said the two presidents agreed on the need to improve ties.

Observers say the biggest strain in bilateral relations has been disagreement over division of the Black Sea fleet, particularly over use of its current base in Sevastopol on Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.

Yeltsin's press service says Yeltsin and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze discussed the situation in Georgia's Abkhazia region. During Friday's summit, CIS leaders agreed to a long-stated Georgian demand that Russian peacekeepers play a more active role in the breakaway region.

Azerbaijan's mostly ethnic Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh region was a reported focus of Yeltsin's meetings with Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrosyan and Azerbaijan's President Heydar Aliev. A ceasefire has held in the breakaway region since 1994, but a permanent settlement has not been reached. Russia is a co-chair of talks aimed at reaching a final settlement.

Tass reports Yeltsin and Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev discussed trade, economic, and humanitarian contacts during their talks. Ryurikov says Yeltsin expressed satisfaction with the treatment of Russian speakers in the Central Asian state.

The indiviadual meetings followed Friday's three-hour joint summit, during which the leaders discussed proposals to push economic integration. While Yeltsin later told a joint news conference that the presidents "had accepted in principle the concept" of developing integration, he admitted not all the leaders were agreed.

The 12 presidents were able to agree on extending the presence of CIS peacekeepers in Tajikistan. Most of the troops are Russian.