CIS Moves to Coordinate Response to Crisis

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — The Commonwealth of Independent States decided Friday to join forces in handling the impact of the financial crisis, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev said.

"A decision was made today to create a working group of finance ministers in connection with the situation in the global economy," said Bakiyev, whose country currently chairs the CIS.

"I mean the financial crisis which has affected everyone," he added. He said CIS finance ministers were expected to meet in Moscow within the next 10 days.

But the leaders made no visible progress on the main agenda item, sending a plan for long-term economic development through 2020 back to be reworked instead of adopting it.

Georgia announced that it was pulling out of the organization in August after Russian forces repelled a Georgian attack on the separatist South Ossetia region and rolled deep into the country's territory.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko did not attend Friday's summit amid political turmoil at home and differences with Russia and other members over energy exports and other issues. Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, who is running for re-election in a vote next week, also snubbed the meeting.

But President Dmitry Medvedev downplayed the absences, saying the CIS is an important club where leaders of ex-Soviet countries can discuss their sometimes difficult ties.

"I'm not trying to idealize the commonwealth. No one is idealizing it, and we had frank and sometimes harsh discussions on the subject today," he said after the summit. "But this is what makes it valuable. We don't have any other platform to discuss these issues."

The CIS now includes 11 of the 15 former Soviet republics — all but Georgia, which withdrew in August, and the three Baltic states, which are European Union and NATO members.

"The European Union has adopted important decisions concerning the coordination of financial activities," Medvedev said in a statement. "These decisions had a direct financial impact including on stock markets.

"We need similar coordination if we want to remain competitive and if we want to overcome the financial crisis with minimal losses," Medvedev added.

Reuters, AP