Initially, only national leaders participated in the twenty-fifth meeting of the council, which discussed measures to counter international terrorism in the context of the Istanbul summit of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Acting on a proposal by the Kazakh and Uzbek presidents, Council members decided to draft an international target programme for combating all manifestations of terrorism, in part by establishing a joint counter-terrorist centre. The relevant orders have already been given. There are plans to hold a joint military exercise involving five CIS countries in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in the spring of 2000.
Apart from combating terrorism and extremism, including religious extremism, CIS leaders discussed economic cooperation and issues pertaining to the creation of a free trade zone. Acting on a proposal by Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, Council members approved measures to streamline mechanisms and processes that will help establish the free trade zone. The sides agreed to set up an ad hoc working group to deal with this issue.
The CIS presidents also elected Acting President Vladimir Putin as the new chairman of the Council of CIS Heads of State.
The delegations of 12 CIS countries subsequently took part in the Council’s meeting. The talks involved Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev, Minister for CIS Affairs Leonid Drachevsky, Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, Federal Security Service Director Nikolai Patrushev, Director of the Federal Border Service Konstantin Totsky and Acting Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov.
In opening the second round of the talks, Mr Putin congratulated the presidents of Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan on their re-election and wished them every success.
The CIS heads of state approved a number of very important documents at the meeting. These included a Decision on the Draft Action Programme for the Development of the CIS Until 2005 and a Decision on the Appeal by the CIS Heads of State to the Peoples of CIS States and the International Public in Connection With the 55th Anniversary of the Victory in the 1941–1945 Great Patriotic War. They also analysed a report on the results of implementing the Inter-governmental Programme of Joint Measures to Combat Organised Crime and Other Dangerous Crimes on the Territory of CIS States Until 2000, as well as the implementation of decisions passed by the Council of CIS Heads of State on April 2, 1999. The Coordinating Council of CIS Prosecutors-General was given the status of an inter-governmental CIS body; and the Council’s Statute was also approved. The validity of the Statute of the CIS Executive Committee was extended, and the Statute of the CIS Economic Council approved.
After the meeting, the CIS heads of state spoke to the press.
The main result of the summit was the elaboration of a joint action programme to combat extremism, terrorism and organised crime. Some foreign governments were under the illusion that weak points where extremism could develop had appeared on former-Soviet space; but, according to Mr Putin, the CIS countries would not give terrorists a chance. Speaking at a news conference on the results of the CIS summit, he stressed that the CIS would act resolutely and effectively in this sphere.
Russia considers its relations with CIS countries to be a top priority, Mr Putin said. He added that CIS leaders had managed to make headway in comprehending the basic pillars of cooperation. He said many people had believed at the time of the CIS’s inception that it was a rudimentary version of the USSR, and that its emergence pointed to fears of a possible disintegration. But it has now become obvious that independent states really have emerged on former-Soviet space, and that the CIS’s role is also changing today.
Mr Putin said the CIS should become a mechanism for preserving all the best aspects of the Soviet Union.
He thanked all summit participants for acknowledging Russia’s role in the integration process and for electing him chairman of the Council of CIS Heads of State.
Speaking about the rights of the Russian-speaking population in CIS countries, Mr Putin noted that each person who considered Russia to be his or her homeland must have the right to live in Russia. And those living in other countries must have the opportunity to preserve their culture and to feel like full-fledged citizens. He said Russia would continue to work toward these goals.
Mr Putin also commented on the situation in the Caucasus, “one of the most difficult regions in the world,” at the news conference. Speaking about the Azerbaijani-Armenian-Georgian-Russian dialogue on regional issues, Mr Putin noted that all members of the “Caucasian Four” proceeded from the premise that their joint efforts in the regional sphere should not create new obstacles in relations with other countries. We will act in accordance with a well-known medical principle, “Do No Harm,” he said.
He stressed that the “Caucasian Four” would act in line with the principles of international law, including such an important provision as the unconditional recognition of any sovereign state’s territorial integrity.
In the long run, the “Caucasian Four” must aim to create good conditions for stability, peace and prosperity.