Relations warm between Russia, Belarus following export deal

In apparently thawing relations, Belarus agreed at a summit in Moscow on Friday to take over chairmanship of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, or CSTO, following the conclusion of an energy deal with Russia earlier last week.

Despite recent disagreements between the Russian and Belarusian presidents, it was decided Friday that Belarus would take over chairmanship of the CSTO next year, Russian independent newspaper Kommersant has reported.

Relations between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko have substantially improved since their last meeting in Yerevan in August, Kommersant said.

In an earlier spat between the two leaders, Lukashenko accused Medvedev of being "dishonest," with the Kremlin in return promising to publish audio recordings of Lukashenko speaking at closed meetings.

Ahead of the CSTO summit, and shortly before Belarus' Dec. 19 presidential election, the two countries decided on a mutual agreement to scrap export duties for oil supplies. Russia has agreed to scrap duties on oil it provides Belarus starting from next year, while Minsk will pass to Moscow export duties on products made from the Russian oil, the Associated Press reported the presidents as saying Thursday.

Thursday's oil deal was inked as Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan agreed to create a fully fledged common economic space by 2012 after the three nations set up a customs union this year.

Lukashenko accepted the chairmanship of the CSTO as a result of this improvement in relations, according to Kommersant.

"Current reality demands paying special attention to threats and requires countermeasures. We intend to continue developing in this direction," said Lukashenko at a press conference Friday.

Conference results

"We had a very productive talk in the caucus [of the seven CSTO member countries], discussing the proposed documents. And now I wish luck to our Belarusian partners as they take on the chairmanship,' Medvedev said at the press conference.

During the course of the summit the CSTO members signed 34 documents, including a "regulation of the order of reacting to crisis situations," and the amendments were incorporated into both the organization's charter and Treaty of Collective Security. According to these changes if any of the seven countries experience a crisis perceived as dangerous, a decision to assist that country can be made in a restricted format. In other words, if a situation in any of the member countries becomes critically dangerous the decision to provide assistance, intervene or send armed forces to that country can be made by members of the CSTO.

The Treaty of Collective Security was supplemented by regulations on coordinated reactions to external aggression and "other military attacks," which according to CSTO Secretary-General Nikolay Bordyuja should be understood as any manifestation of extremism.

"It is not the reversal of the mechanism, but active improvement of the work of our organization," Lukashenko said at the press conference.

The CSTO is comprised by Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.


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