CSTO Leaders Gather For Informal Summit
Presidents of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) have gathered in the Kyrgyz lakeside resort of Cholpon-Ata for what is being billed as an informal summit.
An initial agreement on creating a joint rapid-reaction unit, to be called the Collective Operational Reaction Forces, was signed during a previous CSTO meeting on June 14. However, leaders of two member countries -- Belarus and Uzbekistan -- refused to ink the deal.
The CSTO brings together Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
Both Belarus's President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov have arrived in Kyrgyzstan to participate in the informal summit, raising hopes -- at least in Moscow -- that a final agreement on the rapid-reaction force may finally be signed.
In the meantime, Russian news agencies have quoted a high-ranking Kremlin aide as saying Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will discuss the issue of a second Russian military base on Kyrgyz territory with other CSTO leaders.
Sergei Prikhodko has told reporters that Russian and Kyrgyz officials this week reached an initial agreement on setting up the base in Kyrgyzstan's south.
The Russian official said the base will primarily be used by the CSTO rapid-reaction force.
Earlier this month, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev confirmed only that bilateral negotiations had taken place regarding what he called a counterterrorism center where Kyrgyz and Russian forces would conduct joint training.
"This means that it could be a center where exercises can be conducted on fighting against international terrorism, which can happen in southern Kyrgyzstan at any moment," Bakiev added. "At any moment, there could be an incident. That is, joint training of our soldiers together with the training of Russian forces. That's all."
However, the Russian newspaper "Kommersant" on July 31 reported on alleged disagreements between Russian and Kyrgyz officials over the creation of the base.
"Kommersant" reported that Kyrgyzstan wants the military base to be built from scratch using Russian money, while Russia wants to turn one of the existing military facilities near the southern city of Osh into its base.
According to the paper, officials in Bishkek also are not happy with Russian plans over the duration of the military base's lease. It has been reported the base would operate for 49 years with an extension possible every 25 years.