Progress Made at Commonwealth Meeting on Tajik Conflict
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AP) _ Warring factions in Tajikistan have agreed to permit peacekeeping forces in their country, where clan violence has killed hundreds of people, Tajik officials announced at a commonwealth summit today.
About 450 peacekeeping troops from neighboring Kyrgyzstan will be sent to Tajikistan to try to halt the bloodshed, according to Rustam Mirzoyev, an aide to acting Tajik President Akhbashah Iskanderov.
Tajikistan, which borders Kyrgyzstan to the south along the Chinese frontier, is one of several flashpoints in the former Soviet Union where nationalist tensions have exploded into war. Another is Abkhazia, a tiny region on Russia’s southern border, where Muslim inhabitants are fighting for greater independence from Georgia. Hundreds of people have been killed.
Both conflicts were high on the agenda of today’s summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States, which was created after the collapse of the Soviet Union last year.
The fighting in Tajikistan is between loyalists and opponents of former Communist President Rakhmon Nabiyev, who was ousted from office last month. Clan rivalries have further complicated the political battle between Nabiyev’s supporters and a coalition of Muslim and reformist forces.
An official from Kyrgyzstan, Felix Kulov, told commonwealth leaders that the warring factions had agreed to allow the peacekeepers into the strife-torn southern town of Kurgan-Tyube, Mirzoyev said.
At Russia’s suggestion, the peacekeeping forces were limited to four battalions, or about 450 men, he said.
Iskanderov, the acting Tajik president, wants commonwealth leaders to endorse the continued deployment of more than 10,000 Russian soldiers to control Islamic fundamentalists in his country. It was not immediately clear whether his position would change now that the Kyrgyz peacekeeping troops are to be dispatched.
The fighting between Georgia and its separatist region of Abkhazia also was a special commonwealth concern. Hundreds of people have been killed and at least 25,000 people have fled to Russia since mid-August.
Russian President Boris Yeltsin announced he would meet Tuesday with Georgian leader Eduard Shevardnadze on a ship off Abkhazia to try to find a way to avoid ″full-scale″ war in the Caucasus Mountains.
Russia and Georgia are drifting toward open conflict in the troubled area, the scene of frequent wars since the 19th century and a flashpoint of ethnic conflict since the Soviet collapse.
Two U.N. diplomats were appointed today to a fact-finding mission being sent to the region Monday, a U.N. spokesman said. They are Antoine Blanca, an under-secretary-general, and U.N. envoy Gustave Feissel, who visited Georgia recently. Twelve military observers are to arrive in Abkhazia next Friday.
The summit leaders are also to consider a proposal by Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, to create a common Central Bank to control the printing of new money in the so-called ″ruble zone,″ - countries that continue to use the Russian ruble as their currency.
The summit, in the presidential palace in Bishkek, was attended by the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Armenia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. Shevardnadze did not attend because Georgia is preparing for elections on Sunday.