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Putin Offers Arms Discounts For Help With Peacekeeping

President Vladimir Putin promised on Saturday to sell more weapons at cheaper prices to other former Soviet republics in exchange for their playing a bigger role in peacekeeping operations in the region, including in Georgia. 

The deals on peacekeeping and the sale of Russian military hardware were among more than 20 documents signed by the leaders of the Moscow-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization during a summit in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe. "CSTO members will now get special equipment at domestic Russian prices," Putin said after the summit. 

The grouping, which includes Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, has grown more active in the past few years as new rifts have appeared in Moscow's relations with the West.
Russia alone carries the peacekeeping burden of the broader Commonwealth of Independent States, and Russian officials said during the meeting that they wanted more active participation by their allies. "The CIS peacekeeping force is now deployed in [Georgia's breakaway region of] Abkhazia, but it is 100 percent Russian," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters. "We have always wanted more states to take part in this work." 

Under the agreement signed at the summit, each CSTO member state will allocate a detachment for a peacekeeping force that could be used should a joint decision be made to start a mission. 

Lavrov said the agreement was not drafted with any specific country in mind. But the declaration drew attention to conflicts on the fringes of the CSTO member states.
CSTO executive secretary Nikolai Bordyuzha said Abkhazia and another Georgian breakaway region, South Ossetia, could be options for a joint peacekeeping mission. "The use of the peacekeeping force in Abkhazia and South Ossetia is possible if all sides involved in the conflict agree," he said at a news conference ahead of the summit. 

The CSTO also signed an agreement expressing concern about the situation surrounding Iran.


(The Moscow Times 08.x.07)

 
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