Presidents Nursultan Nazarbaev of Kazakhstan, Askar Akaev of Kyrgyzstan, Imomali Rahmonov of Tajikistan, Saparmurad Niazov of Turkmenistan, and Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan conferred on January 5-6 in Turkmenistan’s capital Ashgabat. Although cautiously billed as "informal" and "without a pre-set agenda," the summit focused on strategic issues including the construction of export pipelines that would circumvent Russia. According to concluding statements, the five presidents expressed their preference for projects to build oil pipelines from Central Asia via the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, and Georgia to Turkey and further to Europe; and, in the case of Turkmenistan, also for a gas pipeline via Iran to Turkey and Europe. The presidents undertook to pool their countries’ efforts in promoting such pipelines and in joining international investment projects to build them.
The five presidents defined the CIS as a framework of cooperation "for a transitional period" and agreed that each country is entitled to determine independently the forms of its participation in the CIS in accordance with its own national interests. They discussed expanding the tripartite Central Asian Union (CAU) according to a "three plus two" formula, by which member countries Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan would be joined in some form or other by Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. For the moment, Tajikistan is on the verge of admission to the CAU’s emergent Single Economic Space; while Turkmenistan is considering the possibility of joining the CAU with observer status. The presidents agreed that the five countries would concert their policies "in long-term partnership to promote their national interests and regional security." (Russian agencies, January 5-6)
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