Presidents Nursultan Nazarbaev of Kazakhstan, Askar Akaev of Kyrgyzstan, and Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan held a regular summit of the Central Asian Economic Union (CAEU) in Bishkek on January 9-10. The presidents signed a treaty on "eternal friendship," envisaging both concerted policies on regional and international issues and joint steps in response to possible threats to the independence and territorial integrity of any of their countries. The steps would include joint appeals to international organizations for assistance and the calling of a tripartite summit to take decisions upholding common interests.
The defense ministers submitted a progress report on CentrasBat, the joint battalion formed by the three countries in 1996 for participation in UN-sponsored peacekeeping operations. They approved the battalion’s 1997 training program, including a follow-up to the 1996 exercise that was held in the U.S.
The presidents also discussed a draft agreement on the mutual convertibility of their national currencies and the project of a railroad from Uzbekistan to western China via Kyrgyzstan. There was no immediate word of conferring on Russia and Tajikistan the status of observers with the CAEU — a point said to have been on the summit’s agenda. The presidents described this summit as ushering in a "new stage" in their countries’ cooperation, and said it represented a "natural process" stemming in part from cultural kinship. (Interfax, January 10).
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