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23 May, 2008 18:48

CIS countries aim to shift from words to action

A series of deals at the CIS heads of government meeting have raised hopes that the organisation faces a more fruitful future.

Despite its many ambitions, the CIS – the Commonwealth of Independent States, comprised of 11 former Soviet republics – has often been perceived as a talking shop rather than a force for action.

But this year’s agenda has been full of real plans, the first of which was highlighted by the Ukrainian Prime Minister before talks even began.

“Today our meeting could be dedicated to striking the balance, signing the documents and make plans for the second year,” Yulia Timoshenko said.

It may not be a huge achievement in itself – but the shift from words to actions was evident.

Even if the countries later go in different directions, they have still found some common ground, as the meeting between Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart showed.

One of the key aspects of these countries' relationship is energy – and that energy has always been volatile. But Minsk gave the perfect opportunity for the ‘gas princess’ and Russia's most popular politician to reach understanding. According to Putin, the past needed to be sorted out.

“We have to settle the outstanding debts for the previous few years first. Then the intermediaries will be able to pay their debts for the earlier supplies. But generally speaking we are ready to accommodate the Ukrainian side and work with them directly,” he said.