Underscoring Akmola’s inauguration as capital of Kazakhstan, Presidents Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan and Askar Akaev of Kyrgyzstan joined Nazarbaev there for a summit of the tripartite Central Asian Union. The presidents approved a plan to create consortiums of the three countries in water management and hydropower, mineral extraction, and food processing. The three governments are to select the joint investment projects by March.
Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan are signatory to an agreement to establish a "common economic space" as part of the Central Asian Union. (See Monitor, December 15) Their leaders consider the CAU as more relevant to their countries’ needs and better attuned to their interests than is the CIS. As Akaev put it at the Akmola meeting, "the three countries, unlike the CIS, only undertake projects that can be carried out in practice." Karimov deplored "attempts to pit Central Asian countries against one another — a business at which our former brother to the north is particularly adept." And Nazarbaev observed that "if the CIS keeps failing to ensure mutual advantage and equal treatment for member countries, then the CIS will have turned into something that should not even exist." At the same time, the three presidents stressed the importance of stable bilateral relations with Russia and with Boris Yeltsin personally. (Russian agencies, December 12, 15, 16)
These three countries are also jointly engaged in military cooperation with the West. On December 16, NATO military experts met in Tashkent with representatives of the Defense Ministries of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. The confidential meeting reviewed the performance of the three countries’ joint battalion — CentrasBat — in last September’s exercise with troops from the U.S. and other NATO countries. (Russian agencies, December 16) A follow-up exercise is scheduled to be held next year.
Economic Problems and Political Reshuffling in Turkmenistan.