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CIS Marks 10th Anniversary with Summit - 2001-11-30

The leaders of Russia and 11 other former Soviet republics have held a one-day summit in Moscow, marking 10 years since the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States, or CIS. There was general agreement on the need for increased cooperation among member states and on the importance of a long-term strategy to fight global terrorism.

In a statement issued at the summit Friday, CIS heads of state welcomed the successes thus far of the international campaign against terrorism and stressed the need for a comprehensive and long-term fight.

Russia was quick to offer its assistance to the United States in the global anti-terrorism campaign and several Central Asian nations have also lent important support to the effort in Afghanistan.

The summit took place in the ornate St. Catherine Hall in the Kremlin. Russian President Vladimir Putin said it was an opportunity to look back and also glance to the future.

Mr. Putin said that despite their differences, it should be clear to all that member states are best served through integration and cooperation. He said the organization was successful when it acted pragmatically, especially in terms of economic interests. He said it failed when any one country tried to impose its will on another.

The CIS was established 10 years ago at the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was an attempt to stave off the uncertainty many feared might result from the Soviet Union's dissolution. It was also an attempt by Moscow to maintain some regional influence. But, the organization has not been very effective. It was unable to prevent various regional conflicts in the Caucasus region and has certainly not turned into a cohesive economic bloc.

President Putin reminded his fellow leaders that the CIS does have significant potential and responsibility. Mr. Putin said the CIS nations remain one of the main suppliers of energy resources to the world market today. He stressed that cooperation at this time is important for world financial stability.

A dispute between Russia and Georgia threatened to mar the summit. Georgia has accused Russian military planes of violating its air space and bombing Georgian villages. Russia denies the accusations, but says its military was pursuing rebels near the border in the neighboring breakaway Russian republic of Chechnya.

Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze discussed the dispute with President Putin during a meeting on the sidelines of the summit. The two men agreed on an investigation into the incident.