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Wednesday, August 25, 1999 Published at 11:37 GMT 12:37 UK


World: Asia-Pacific

Leaders pledge to protect borders

Boris Yeltsin and Jiang Zemin were in good humour after talks

Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his Chinese counterpart, Jiang Zemin, have joined Kazakh, Tajik and Kyrgyz leaders in signing an agreement committing themselves to fighting terrorism, arms smuggling and drugs trafficking.

The declaration commits the five leaders to uphold current borders and to clamp down on separatist groups operating on their territory.

The five vowed to fight militant Islamic activity in the region. Russia is eager to prevent any insurgencies like the ones in Chechnya and Dagestan breaking out on its southern border.

For its part, China is anxious to stop the Uighur separatist movement in its frontier region, Xinjiang, gaining support from fellow Muslims in the central Asian republics.

The agreement came at the end of a summit meeting in Kyrgyzstan of the Shanghai Five, named after the Chinese city where the five countries signed a 1996 treaty on easing border tensions.


[ image: Kyrgyz President Akayev has pressing problems on his southern border]
Kyrgyz President Akayev has pressing problems on his southern border
"Russia has a strategic interest in the security of the Asiatic region," said President Yeltsin.

Closing the summit, Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev said the republics of former Soviet Central Asia welcomed a more active regional role for Moscow and Beijing.

"Kyrgyzstan believes Russia and China have an important role as guarantors of stability in the region and the wider world," he said.

Problems of regional stability were highlighted during the conference when gunmen took seven hostages, including four Japanese geologists, in a remote mountain village in southern Kyrgyzstan.

The gunmen are suspected to be Islamists from Tajikistan or Uzbekistan.

Sino-Russian links 'on the up'

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov described Wednesday's breakfast meeting between President Yeltsin and President Jiang as "very warm".

"Our relations are on the up," Ivanov told reporters. "China and Russia will work together very closely in the international arena in the interests of peace and security."

Both countries strongly opposed Nato's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, saying it violated international law.

They are also worried by US plans to develop an anti-missile defence umbrella for its own troops and Asian allies like Japan.

World order

Asked about President Yeltsin's comments that he was ready to fight Westerners, Mr Ivanov said the Russian leader believes there is an active struggle for the future world order, and that must be a world where the interests of all countries, not just one or two, are met.

The Russians did not single out the US by name, but the BBC's Central Asian correspondent Louise Hidalgo says the message was clear, aimed in part at a Russian public increasingly convinced that the end of the Cold War has left the West the sole superpower.

Russia and China have many reasons to co-operate. China has emerged as a lucrative market for Russian arms makers, whose factories receive little work from Russia's own shrinking military and other trade has been increasing, according to our correspondent.





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