|Mintimer Shaimiev, President of Russia's
Tatarstan (left), Vladimir Putin (middle) and
Mikheil Saakashvili at the CIS summit in
Kazan, August 26, 2005. The Kommersant photo.
Reforming the CIS structures into more affective vehicle of cooperation topped the agenda of the summit. “We have different position and in a dialogue we are trying to find mutually acceptable proposals, in order to turn CIS into effective field for cooperation,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said after the summit.
President Putin was the only leader who made an official statement after the summit, but refused to take questions from journalists. Some observers noted that some CIS leaders tried to avoid the previous experience, when Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and his Russian counterpart sparred over Abkhazia at a joint news conference after the CIS leaders’ summit in Astana last September.
One day after the summit, President Saakashvili convened a news conference in Kazan and detailed reporters about Georgia’s CIS policy and Tbilisi’s relations with Russia.
Saakashvili said that Georgia does not think the possibilities of the CIS “have been exhausted,” adding that Georgia’s withdrawal from the CIS is not on the agenda.
“But the CIS has problems which need to be solved. It is possible to turn [the CIS] into a more influential body. But what we currently have should be utilized,” Saakashvili said.
He described CIS summits as “a useful format for meetings and consultations” with other leaders of the member states.
Speaking with reporters Georgian Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili, who accompanied Saakashvili in Kazan, made it clear that Georgia prefers the CIS to be a vehicle of cooperation rather than integration.
Saakashvili also denied speculation that deepening of bilateral ties between Georgia and Ukraine is a precondition to create an alternative to the CIS. “This will not replace the CIS. Georgia’s withdrawal from the CIS is not on the agenda,” he added.
Saakashvili said that the Borjomi Declaration signed by the leaders of Georgia and Ukraine on August 12 expresses the aspiration of Georgia and Ukraine to “democratic choice.”
“Claims that Russia is being besieged 'cordoned off' belong to not very clever people. The declaration with Kiev is an attempt to create a consultation mechanism for democratic states. We exchange our experience of democratic reforms with Ukraine,” Mikheil Saakashvili said.
At the news conference Saakashvili also informed about the decision of Turkmenistan to withdraw from the CIS and maintain only “associate membership” in the organization. “This is the first precedent in the history of the CIS,” Saakashvili said.
The Russian daily Kommersant described Turkmenistan’s decision as “the beginning of the CIS’s collapse.” The newspaper says that surprisingly the process of collapse was launched not by “revolutionary Mikheil Saakashvili and Victor Yushchenko,” the President of Ukraine, but by the leader of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov.
Saakashvili said while speaking about Russo-Georgian relations that a progress has been noted in bilateral ties after Russia started to pull out its two military bases in Georgia, but added that unsolved problems still remain in relations.
“Recent months in the Russian-Georgian relations was marked with a civilized breakthrough in solving the issue of Russia’s military presence in Georgia,” Saakashvili said.
“I am satisfied with cooperation with Vladimir Putin over withdrawal of Russian military bases from Georgia. This was a courageous step of a politician, who can take responsibility and solve the issues… There still are very many other issues. I am always glad to have a dialogue with Vladimir Putin,” Saakashvili said.
He said that issues related with state borders are among those problems which remain unsolved. “Russia is a huge state with huge territories and we are a small state and we do not want to become even smaller,” Saakashvili said, adding that he intended to discuss these issued during the face-to-face meeting with Putin.
The informal meeting took place later on August 27. Before the meeting the two leaders made short statements for the media.
“I am sure that we have much to discuss about cooperation both in frames of bilateral format and in frames of international organizations,” Putin said.
Saakashvili reiterated that President Putin’s “brave decision” over the military bases was a breakthrough in bilateral relations. “The fundamental problems between our countries were created not during my or your governance. But it is possible to solve them during our governance,” Saakashvili said.