Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 170

Following the failure of the CIS reform conference and the cancellation of the CIS Prime Ministers’ September 24-25 meeting (see the Monitor, September 16), the CIS summit scheduled for October 8-9 in Moscow is now in jeopardy. In a rush to rescue it, Russia’s Sverdlovsk Oblast governor Eduard Rossel proposed yesterday that the summit be held in that region’s city of Yekaterinburg, instead of Moscow. “Holding the summit in Yeltsin’s native region might help remove the differences among CIS countries,” Rossel averred, without explaining that reasoning. He made the proposal during talks in Bishkek with Kyrgyz president Askar Akaev, who endorsed it and promised to lobby Central Asian leaders in favor of the idea (Russian agencies, September 16). The proposal looks as eccentric as CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovsky’s idea to invite Iran and other countries from outside the former USSR to join the CIS (Russian agencies, September 15-16).

Moldova’s Foreign Ministry yesterday disclosed some of the differences that scuttled the reform conference in Minsk and the prime ministers’ scheduled meeting in Moscow. Ukraine, Moldova, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan wanted political and military issues excluded from the agenda. These and, apparently, other countries called for turning the CIS space into a free trading area, removing customs barriers and proceeding to implement the 1994 agreement on free trade among CIS countries. That agreement has remained a dead letter. Most CIS countries blame Russian protectionist interests for erecting barriers to intra-CIS trade (Flux, Basapress, Monitor interviews, September 16).

In Tbilisi yesterday, the commanders of border troops of Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Georgia signed a cooperation agreement. Moldova was not represented, but had agreed to the document in advance and is due to sign it as well. The agreement forms part of quadrilateral relations in the framework of GUAM (Georgia-Ukraine-Azerbaijan-Moldova), a grouping created last year by the four countries in order to defend their interests within the CIS. As if to underscore the CIS’ irrelevance, the Tbilisi meeting coincided with the opening in Yerevan of a regular conference commanders of CIS countries’ border troops (Russian agencies, September 16) .