By Hrach Melkumian
Senior security officials from the Commonwealth of Independent States wrapped up a two-day session in Yerevan on Friday with a pledge of closer cooperation to fight crime, drug trafficking and terrorism across the former Soviet Union. Russian Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov said his colleagues from other former Soviet states promised their assistance to Moscow’s military campaign against separatist rebels in Chechnya.
“We have come to the unanimous conclusion that we have to consolidate our efforts to fend off international terrorism,” Gryzlov declared at a joint news conference, primarily referring to the armed resistance Russia has been facing in Chechnya. He also pointed to a wider “arc of instability” stretching from Kosovo to Afghanistan.
Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov heading Russian delegation in Yerevan
“We have agreed that all parties taking part in the [Yerevan] meeting should inform each other about possible presence of criminals on their territory and take measures to detain and extradite them,” he said. “I believe that this is a very important agreement.”
Russia has previously accused Georgia and, to a lesser extent, Azerbaijan of giving asylum to Chechen rebel leaders. The accusations have further strained relations between Tbilisi and Moscow.
The Georgian and Azerbaijani interior ministers, Kakha Targamadze and Ramil Usubov, also took part in the Yerevan meeting of the CIS Council of Interior Ministers. Usubov’s participation marked a rare visit to Armenia by a high-ranking Azerbaijani official.
The Azerbaijani minister refused to answer “political questions” from local reporters, saying only that bilateral cooperation between Armenian and Azerbaijani police is virtually non-existent now because of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. But he said the two sides feel the need for direct contacts and will start to interact “when the political situation permits.”
The ex-Soviet ministers and deputy ministers of interior signed no documents as a result of the meeting. Gryzlov said they discussed “large-scale measures” against drug trafficking across the vast geographical area.
The police chiefs attached particular importance to strengthening the existing mechanisms for mutual extradition of criminal suspects. Armenian Interior Minister said that last year alone some 60 persons wanted by Armenian law-enforcement agencies were extradited by the other CIS states. Armenia, for its part, handed over fourteen suspects, he said.