Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 25

The Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of CIS Countries held its twentieth meeting yesterday in Moscow. Billed as an anniversary occasion by Russia, the meeting marked instead a new low in the history of this CIS body. Some ministers declined to attend, sending deputies instead. Moldova, for example, sent a Gagauz official. Although programmed by Moscow to recommend the prolongation of the 1992 CIS Collective Security Treaty by its nine signatory countries, the meeting had to register the first outright withdrawal from the treaty–Uzbekistan (see Central Asia section below). While Russia wanted the issue of “coordinated actions in foreign policy” [outside the CIS area] to be high on the agenda, dissenting member countries pushed that issue in the “miscellanea” item at the bottom. That move ultimately enabled participants to avoid open disagreements over such issues as NATO’s enlargement and Kosovo, which figured in the miscellanea item and on which Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan differ with Moscow.

The Ukrainian representative, Deputy Foreign Minister Oleksandr Chaliy, declined to discuss political issues, urging instead implementing the 1994 treaty on a CIS-wide “free economic zone.” That desideratum, common to most member countries, stems mainly from restrictions on access to the Russian market and onerous tariffs on transit trade via Russia. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk, rather than attending, telephoned his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov from Kyiv to raise the issue of liberalizing intra-CIS trade, and to raise a second, and painful bilateral, issue: the uncertain fate of the Russian-Ukrainian interstate treaty in Russia’s Federation Council (see the Monitor, January 27, 28, 29; and The Fortnight in Review, January 29). The Moscow meeting, like so many CFM meetings since 1994, agreed to recommend implementation of that year’s treaty on the free economic zone.

Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan agreed to prolong their membership in the Collective Security Treaty beyond its expiration this coming May. Uzbekistan refused outright (see Central Asia section below). Georgia refused in effect–demanding unspecified revisions to the treaty before any discussion on prolonging Georgia’s membership. That membership is believed to expire in May. Georgia and Azerbaijan had signed the treaty under duress in 1993. Azerbaijan’s participation is nil, and the country currently seeks Western and Turkish protection. On the eve of the Moscow meeting in Baku, the senior presidential adviser Vafa Guluzade publicly suggested that Azerbaijan should follow Uzbekistan and officially withdraw from the treaty (Itar-Tass and other Russian agencies, UNIAN, Turan, February 4). Ukraine, Moldova and Turkmenistan never acceded to the treaty.