The presidents of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, Islam Karimov, and Askar Akayev, held December 15 a session of the Interstate Council of their three countries in Djambul (southern Kazakhstan). The presidents appealed to the UN secretary-general Boutros Ghali for UN approval of the creation of a Central Asian peacekeeping battalion under UN aegis and at its disposal. The battalion could be permanently deployed near the Kazakh-Uzbek border and be used not only as a regional force but anywhere the world, including Bosnia, the presidents suggested. They also created a Council of Defense Ministers under the Interstate Council to deal with matters of regional security and common defense. At a joint news conference after the meeting the three presidents expressed the hope that "forces of reason and democracy will win" the elections to Russia’s Duma and that reforms will not be reversed in Russia. (17)
The appeal signifies an attempt to overcome the "peacekeeping" monopoly which Russia is currently in a position to exercise in Central Asia under the mantle of the CIS. The three presidents decided that their proposal would not apply to Tajikistan, where mainly Russian troops with token Kazakh, Uzbek, and Kyrgyz units are engaged under a CIS peacekeeping mandate. The paralleled decision to create a defense ministers’ council also testifies to a quest for a more effective role for local countries in their own region’s security arrangements. The initiative could have been stronger if joined by Turkmenistan; but that country prefers to keep out of multilateral undertakings in the CIS or outside it, favoring bilateral arrangements instead.
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