Date: Sat, 13 Dec 1997 09:14:54 LCL
Central Asian states to form joint consortia
By Murat Buldekbayev, Reuters, 12 December 1997, 06:47 p.m Eastern
AKMOLA, Dec 12 (Reuters) - The leaders of the former Soviet Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan agreed on Friday to form joint consortia in a bid to boost regional cooperation.
After several hours of talks held in Kazakhstan's new capital Akmola, Kazakh President Nursulatan Nazarbayev, Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov and Kyrgyzstan's Askar Akayev signed a protocol of intent to set up a number of regional enterprises.
"Probably, we will start with three consortia," Akayev told a news briefing after the signing. "Those will deal with energy and irrigation, food-making and minerals and raw materials."
Describing one of the economic advantages of the future consortia, Karimov said that energy-starved Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan might invest in developing abundant hydro power resources in Kyrgyzstan and get cheap electricity in return.
In line with the protocol signed, working groups on forming joint consortia would start holding regular meetings in March.
The three resource-rich states, which share common historic roots in ancient nomadic Turkic tribes, decided to set up the Central Asian Union (CAU) in 1994 to deepen their economic, political and cultural ties.
But Turkmenistan -- another resource-rich Turkic state in the region -- does not take part in the union.
Nazarbayev said that all documents on forming regional consortia would be sent to Turkmenistan.
The fifth Central Asian state, Tajikistan, most of whose citizens are ethnically close to Iranians, has shown avid interest in joining the union.
"Tajikistan is ready to become a CAU member at any moment, but the situation there should stabilise first," Nazarbayev said.
Tajikistan's secular government and the country's United Islamist Opposition in June signed a final peace agreement to end more than four years of civil war. But the fragile peace in the impoverished country is often disturbed by maverick bands.
Akayev said that the three states' cooperation within the CAU was "a good example" to follow for the nine other former Soviet countries grouped within the loose Commonwealth of Independent States.
But despite regular regional summits brimming with official optimism, the CAU with a population of over 45 million people and an area of around 3.5 million sq km, has not become a powerful and influential structure.
The economic integration within the union is thwarted by different speeds of reforms in the three states, while Uzbekistan's multiple exchange rate mechanism complicates mutual trade and the work of the Central Asian Bank for Cooperation and development set up in 1994.
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