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Former Soviet states sign economic union treaty

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October 11, 2000 


ALMATY (AP) - The leaders of Russia and four other former Soviet republics agreed at a summit in the Kazak capital Astana on Tuesday to form a new organization aimed at integrating their economies and boosting trade.

Russia, Kazakstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus had previously formed a customs union to revive trade ties that were severed with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.

On Tuesday, the five nations' leaders agreed to rename the organization the Eurasian Economic Community, and extend its activity in new directions: strengthening external borders and forming joint law enforcement units to battle smuggling and drug-trafficking.

Russia is already assisting Tajikistan with joint border patrols considered necessary to stem drug and arms smuggling across the volatile border with Afghanistan.

Putin said that "the main thing is to settle questions of collective security and the main goal is to settle the issues peacefully."

The members of the community should jointly battle problems including "terrorism, drug smuggling, and the illegal export of weapons and aggressive nationalism," Putin said.

According to the leaders' joint statement, the Eurasian Economic Community will establish a common payment system and will provide equal access to foreign investment in all the member-countries. It will also coordinate the countries' relations with the World Trade Organization.

"We have worked out a model for integrating our states," Kazak President Nursultan Nazarbayev told the gathered leaders. He called the new group "a new model close to the European Council and other international organizations."

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said that the new organization should significantly boost trade in the region, and specifically that it should bring down high Russian cargo tariffs.

"Belarus now exports about 50 percent of its products to the West because there are no obstacles hindering the free movement of cargo," he was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

Putin and several of the other leaders were scheduled to travel to the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek on Wednesday for a summit on bolstering military cooperation. Russia and several former Soviet republics in Central Asia have been rattled by Islamic insurgencies and alarmed by the Taliban's recent advances in Afghanistan.

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