Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev arrived in Armenia on Wednesday for an official visit timed to precede a summit of six former Soviet republics comprising a loose defense alliance. Nazarbayev met his Armenian counterpart, Robert Kocharian, to discuss bilateral ties and broader security issues.
Nazarbayev and Kocharian at the official ceremony outside the presidential palace in Yerevan
The meeting was followed by the signing of several intergovernmental
agreements and a formal exchange of ratifications of the Kazakh-Armenian treaty on "friendship and cooperation" signed during Kocharian's visit to the vast Central Asian country in 1999. The exchange marked the document's entry into force. Nazarbayev said the existing legal framework creates a strong basis for the development of the bilateral relationship.
Armenia and Kazakhstan are signatories to the Russian-dominated Collective Security Treaty (CST) sealed in 1992. Leaders of the signatory states -- which also include Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan -- will converge on the Armenian capital tomorrow for a two-day meeting that will focus on ways of deepening their military cooperation.
The executive secretary of the CST staff, Valeri Nikolaenko, told reporters in Yerevan that the summit will also map out joint steps to combat "international terrorism and other manifestations of extremism." He said the six presidents, including Russia's Vladmir Putin, will also seek to strengthen the loose CST structures by introducing among other things a one-year rotating presidency of the alliance to be assumed first by Armenia.
The summit will also approve plans for the creation of a "rapid reaction force" to counter what the six countries see as an Islamist threat to Central Asia. Armenia and Belarus will not be part of the force though.
Yerevan has instead agreed to set up a joint military contingent with
Russian troops stationed in Armenia which is supposed to reinforce the "Caucasian direction" of the CST.
Hrach Melkumian, Armen Zakarian