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Russia: CIS Collective Security Treaty Members Meet Over Afghanistan, Terrorism

The foreign ministers of the six former Soviet member-states of the Collective Security Treaty met yesterday in Moscow. The officials -- from Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan -- discussed possible solutions to the situation in Afghanistan and the fight against international terrorism.

Moscow, 29 November 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The situation in Afghanistan dominated yesterday's talks in Moscow between foreign ministers from the six member-states of the Collective Security Treaty (CST).

Speaking at a press conference following the meeting, the officials said the CST had pledged to improve cooperation between its member-states. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov also said the group would focus on contributing to a workable solution for Afghanistan's political future: "All the members of the [Collective Security] Treaty agreed on the necessity of improving the mechanism of our cooperation. We spoke about it today during our meeting as well. As far as Afghanistan is concerned, all the Collective Security Treaty countries are taking part in the antiterrorist coalition. We will continue our coordinated international effort not only in finishing the military operation, but also in the political arrangement in Afghanistan."

Established in 1992, the CST has in the past focused largely on joint security concerns in Central Asia, which was seen as a breeding ground for Islamic extremist groups. The current conflict in Afghanistan has heightened interest in the area even further, particularly as Uzbekistan -- and to a lesser degree CST members Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan -- have offered support to U.S.-led efforts there.

Yesterday's meeting took place as Afghan delegates met in Bonn, Germany, for a second day of talks on forming a broad-based interim government to replace the Taliban militia. Ivanov said Afghanistan's new government must include all the country's ethnic groups if it is to be successful. He said it should also contribute to an ongoing international fight against terrorism: "We thing that Afghanistan should have a broad-based leadership that would represent all the main ethnic groups, a government that would carry out its responsibilities before the international community in eliminating terrorist camps, centers of organized crime and drug business threatening the international community from the territory of Afghanistan."

Collective Security Treaty Secretary-General Valery Nikolayenko said the ministers also discussed how to better coordinate their foreign policy decisions and military and technical cooperation. Saying the treaty is key to "guaranteeing security and stability in the post-Soviet world," Nikolayenko said the member-states will also proceed on improving the legal provisions of the CST in order to facilitate better coordination.

Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Askanyan praised the meeting, saying that fighting international terrorism has always been a primary goal of the CST countries: "Our meeting was really useful today. It was our first meeting after 11 September. But I'd also like to remind you that even before 11 September the main goal of the member-states of the Security Treaty was to fight against international terrorism. As our general secretary, Mr. Nikolayenko, pointed out, the fight against international terrorism was one of the main topics of our meeting today. I believe that after today's meeting we will work much better in that direction."

Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov today asked the entire Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to play an essential part in global security and the fight against terrorism. Interfax quotes Ivanov as saying at a meeting of CIS foreign ministers in Moscow that it is "extremely important" for CIS states to play a leading role in global security. The CIS, which will have its 10-year anniversary summit tomorrow in Moscow, is a loose 12-member organization uniting the former Soviet republics, minus the three Baltic states.