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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nazarbayev Urges CIS Revamp

LONDON -- Kazakhstan's president called on Tuesday for the Commonwealth of Independent States to be changed into a smaller grouping that would exclude countries involved in military conflicts.


In a speech to Britain's Royal Institute of International Affairs, President Nursultan Nazarbayev said the new grouping would aim to ensure a "belt of stability" in the area. He suggested the name "Euro-Asiatic Union."


The present CIS, formed after the Soviet Union collapsed at the end of 1991, has 12 members -- all the former Soviet republics except the three Baltic states.


Nazarbayev said the CIS had defied predictions that it would quickly disintegrate and could have bright prospects for economic integration. But he said the time had come to reform it.


This he said, "would ensure the creation in this region of a belt of stability and security." A revamped Commonwealth could play "a really stabilizing role in halting and settling possible conflicts in this zone."


"Existing conditions make it essential to give up the attempt to keep all the states in the CIS," Nazarbayev said.


"In our view, we should create a really working union of states based on a core of countries that could be called the 'Euro-Asiatic Union.'"


Other former Soviet republics could join it if they ceased military actions, observed international agreements, territorial integrity and inviolability of frontiers, and renounced all forms of economic pressure, the Kazakh leader said.


His terms appeared to exclude such CIS members as Azerbaijan and Armenia, which have been involved for the past six years in a conflict over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.


He said the new community would need collective peacekeeping forces. Russia has volunteered to act as peace-keeper in the CIS, a proposal viewed with concern by some of its neighbors.


Nazarbayev warned against any attempt to reconstitute the Soviet Union, saying the former Soviet republics had made a "decisive and irreversible choice for sovereign development."


In a cautious criticism of Russia, he called on Moscow to clarify its foreign policy, "which at times is hard to predict and often depends on shifts in the political situation."


Nazarbayev defended elections held earlier this month in Kazakhstan, which were criticized by observers for not giving voters a fair choice of candidates.


He said that while they might have fallen short of the standards of Western countries, they were an "indisputable success" for a country which had only just shaken off the yoke of communism.