By Hrach Melkumian
Senior commanders of border guard troops from ten former Soviet republics, including Azerbaijan, on Thursday began a two-day regular meeting in Yerevan of their permanent council operating within the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Members of the council said that discussions centered on further coordination of their activities aimed at protecting the vast external borders of the CIS. Armenia and some other ex-Soviet countries still have Russian troops deployed along their respective sections of that border.
Several thousand Russians guard Armenia's borders with Turkey and Iran, which total 468 kilometers (290 miles), in accordance with a bilateral treaty. General Kontstantin Totsky, head of Russia's Federal Border Service, told RFE/RL that the situation there remains stable and secure.
The first day of the Yerevan meeting resulted in a crucial agreement between Russia and Georgia providing for joint control of the volatile Russian-Georgian border, which has been a major source of tensions between the two countries. The agreement signed by Totsky and his Georgian counterpart, Valeri Chkheidze, is aimed at preventing cross-border attacks on Russian troops by Chechen militants reportedly based in Georgia's lawless Pankisi Gorge. It envisages joint patrolling of the mountainous area bordering on Chechnya and a regular exchange of relevant information.
Russia has repeatedly accused Georgia of turning a blind eye on periodical rebel attacks, threatening to use force to dislodge the armed Chechens from Pankisi. But tensions between the two former Soviet neighbors eased after a meeting earlier this month between the Russian and Georgian presidents.
Totsky said he hopes the Russian and Georgian border guards will jointly "restore order" in the Pankisi section of the border. Chkheidze, for his part, promised that the Georgian authorities will arrest anyone attempting to illegally cross into Russia.