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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Presidents to Strengthen Joint Security




MINSK, Belarus -- President Vladimir Putin and leaders of five other former Soviet republics agreed Wednesday to intensify cooperation on security issues to fend off perceived new threats from terrorism, Islamic extremism and drug and arms smuggling.


Putin and the leaders of Belarus, Armenia and three Central Asian states - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan - adopted nine documents to reinvigorate a 1992 treaty on collective security.


Participants said they were pleased with the agreements, which would set down the terms of joint intervention to defend members' interests, including peacekeeping missions and the use of force. Few details were disclosed.


"The mechanism we have adopted makes the treaty the main means of maintaining peace today and in the future," Putin said after the meeting, attended by foreign and defense ministers. "It is capable of reacting to a changing world. And it is open for others to join."


Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said the accords amounted to "a major event, without exaggeration. The memorandum sets down the conditions and means in which states can defend each other and what has to be done for this."


A joint statement said the accords opened the "possibility to use force and collective security means. It offers a solid base for collective action reflecting new nontraditional threats, like international terrorism and extremism."


The six leaders met in Minsk, Belarus, for the second straight day to inject new life into bodies loosely tied to the 12-nation Commonwealth of Independent States.


On Tuesday, leaders of the same countries, except Armenia, agreed to rejuvenate a customs union, but little progress was made in resolving trade differences, largely with Russia.


The leaders had said on the eve of the meeting that a failure to resolve the issues of tariffs and transport costs could endanger not only the customs union, but also the larger CIS.


"There is a desire on the part of all states in the customs union to give it new importance, to turn it into an international legal body," Putin said Tuesday after talks with the other leaders.


The presidents set a September deadline to form the legal basis of the new body.


"This is a qualitative change that will have a serious impact on industry in our countries," Putin said.


The new body is to be patterned on the 15-nation European Union and bear the name Eurasian customs union. Its main goals would be to elaborate a common tariff, customs and tax policy and joint policies related to third countries.


The presidents made it clear that much discussion had focused on differences with Russia, accused of blocking the union by favoring its own industry.


Nazarbayev, current chairman of the body, said future accords depended on Russian agreement.


"We have to make this customs union a natural part of our way of thinking so that others will want to join it," he said. "Perhaps it just isn't attractive at the moment."