Ex-Soviet states vow cooperation despite war, economic turmoil | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 11, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, October 11, 2008

Ex-Soviet states vow cooperation despite war, economic turmoil

Leaders of former Soviet states wrapped up talks here yesterday hailed by the Kyrgyz hosts as boosting cooperation but overshadowed by the Georgian war and global economic turmoil.
The talks among nine presidents of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) "showed a common aspiration to make cooperation between our countries more concrete and useful," said Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, stressing common economic goals and cooperation in combating drug trafficking.
But questions about the relevance of the CIS were underlined by the absence from the closing news conference of almost all the leaders, with the exception of Bakiyev and next year's summit host, Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin.
The CIS, a group formed out of the remains of the Soviet Union, has taken to holding such limited press briefings after some fiery public exchanges at previous gatherings.
Bakiyev took no questions from journalists on the detail of the discussions, only describing them as "valuable and constructive in all respects."
In Russia, the CIS' main economic powerhouse, newspapers highlighted a drop in the number of attendees as a sign of waning Russian influence in the former Soviet area.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was absent, having announced his country's withdrawal from the CIS after August's war with Russia, as were the leaders of Azerbaijan and Ukraine, which have pursued ties with the West.
While Moscow was unwilling "to permit a collapse of Russian influence in the post-Soviet space... changed circumstances after the Caucasus war have nullified such goals," Russian newspaper Kommersant said, noting other states' reluctance to follow Russia and recognise two Georgian regions as independent.
Starting his visit here on Thursday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev tried to smooth over tensions in the CIS, appealing to fellow leaders to emulate recent EU cooperation in the face of the worldwide financial crisis.
Medvedev was due to give his own news conference later, providing him with an opportunity to comment on a proposal mooted by Japan to hold an emergency summit of the Group of Eight (G8) to discuss the financial crisis.
The idea of a G8 meeting comes as Russia's relations with Western partners in the G8 have been strained over August's Russian military thrust into southern neighbour Georgia.
Friday was the deadline for a Russian troop pull-back in Georgia, a deadline closely watched by the Europea Union, which brokered an end to the August fighting over the Moscow-backed rebel region of South Ossetia.
On a visit to Georgia on Friday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Russia had withdrawn from buffer zones in the Caucasus nation but that a "long road" lay ahead in resolving issues from the war.

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