CIS Executive Secretary Yuri Yarov announced on April 27 that the CIS summit, which had been due in April, has twice been postponed and that it is now tentatively scheduled for June 21, subject to some further negotiations. Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin had announced at the January summit–his debut as chairman of the Council of Heads of CIS Countries–that the summit would be held shortly after the March presidential election in Russia and had insisted on an early April date. Yet, as Yarov seemed to imply, the preparations ran into difficulties over three issues.
First, several countries including those loyal to Moscow want some assurance that the summit would mark progress toward creating a CIS-wide Free Trade Zone, which Russia remains unprepared to concede. Second, Georgia and Azerbaijan insist that the summit adopt documents consistent with these two countries’ positions on the Abkhazia and the Karabakh problems–a step which Moscow appears unprepared to take even at a time when the war in Chechnya requires Russia to defend the principle of territorial integrity of states and inviolability of borders. And, third, and perhaps most significant, the GUUAM countries–with the possible, partial exception of Uzbekistan–resist the Russian-planned CIS anti-terrorism program and antiterrorism center, both of which Moscow seems intent on using as a supranational instrument of policy coordination.
According to Yarov, the differences at this stage seem to preclude the signing of documents on those and other issues even if the summit is held in June as tentatively rescheduled (Itar-Tass, RIA, April 27; see the Monitor, January 26, 28; Fortnight in Review, February 4).
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