The leaders of six countries participating in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) had come to Yerevan to attend the unofficial gathering focused on developing mechanisms that would allow the group to react more quickly and effectively to crises similar to the one in Kyrgyzstan earlier this year.
The Central Asian state was plunged into a deep political crisis after its president was deposed by the opposition in April. The CSTO effectively refused to step in to resolve the crisis despite appeals from the provisional government of Kyrgyzstan that had descended into chaos and saw a rising wave of ethnic violence in some of its regions in June.
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian, as the leader of the host nation, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, as the leader of the country that currently holds the rotating presidency in the organization, made opening remarks, welcoming their counterparts from Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan at a closed-door opening session on August 20. The president of Uzbekistan, the other CSTO member, is not attending the summit in Armenia.
The CSTO has grown out of a Collective Security Treaty that was signed by Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan back in 1992. Azerbaijan, Georgia and Belarus joined the treaty in 1993, but the two South Caucasus nations as well as Uzbekistan withdrew from it six years later. Uzbekistan rejoined the treaty in 2006, four years after it had turned into an organization that has its own charter and legal status.
Meetings and discussions among the former Soviet leaders will proceed at a lakeside resort in Sevan on Saturday. One such bilateral meeting was due to feature Medvedev and Kyrgyz leader Roza Otunbayeva.
Summits of this kind are largely viewed as an additional forum for former Soviet leaders to sort out their bilateral problems.
Armenia -- Russian president Dmitry Medvedev (L), Armenian president Serzh Sarkissian (C) and CSTO Secretary-General Nikolay Bordyuzha talk to the press in Yerevan, 20Aug2010
It is not yet clear whether President Medvedev, who completed his two-day state visit to Armenia on Friday and stayed on for the event, will hold a separate meeting with his Belarus counterpart Aleksandr Lukashenko on the margins of the unofficial gathering.
Lukashenko’s participation in the summit was originally in doubt because of his worsening relations with the Kremlin. Once considered Moscow’s most loyal ex-Soviet ally, Belarus was locked earlier this year in a major row with Russia over gas prices and debts, which led to a cut in Russia’s Europe-bound supplies flowing via Belarusian territory.
Tensions between the two states rose further late last week when the Kremlin accused Lukashenko of dishonorable and inconsistent behavior following the Belarusian strongman’s claims that he had never promised to recognize Georgia’s Russian-backed breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
In remarks that might indicate some thaw in the strained relations between the two leaders, Medvedev welcomed Lukashenko’s readiness for Belarus to assume the CSTO’s rotating presidency in 2011. The statement was made at a press conference not attended by Lukashenko. But both leaders are scheduled to attend the Saturday events.
The CSTO leaders’ informal summit is due to end on August 22.