Lukashenka calls on Kazakhstan, Russia not to delay establishment of common economic zone

Alyaksandr Lukashenka has called on Kazakhstan and Russia to set up with Belarus, their partner in the recently established Customs Union, a common economic zone within a year.

“Belarus insists that all things should be completed within a year,” RIA Novosti quoted the Belarusian leader as saying at an informal CIS summit held in Kazakhstan’s Almaty on December 19.

Mr. Lukashenka said that documents formalizing the establishment of the three-nation Customs Union on January 1, 2010 were signed three weeks ago, and expressed hope that the ongoing summit would yield a “fundamental decision about deadlines for the establishment of the common economic zone.”

He said that Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are ready to join the Customs Union.

Earlier in the day, the presidents Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia held in Almaty a separate meeting that resulted into the signing of a joint action plan for the development of the common economic zone, said Kazakhstan’s news agency Kazakhstan Today.

“We have told the world that we have finally set up the Customs Union and are moving toward the approval of a schedule for the creation of the common economic zone,” the report quoted Kazakh leader Nursultan Nazarbayev as saying.

“After studying a report submitted by members of the Eurasian Economic Community’s secretariat for the development of a joint action plan to establish the zone, the Inter-state Council of the Heads of State decided to approve the joint action plan to create the three republics` common economic zone,” Mr. Nazarbayev said.

A joint statement adopted by the three leaders says that the zone would be established by January 1, 2012.

“We are set to deepen further integration processes in the Eurasian Economic Community,” the statement reads.

It says that the Customs Union of the three countries will start operation on January 1, 2010 as scheduled. “The Customs Union will help increase mutual trade, boost the competitiveness of our products and open up new opportunities for investment,” the statement says. “We had to find a balance of interests and solutions to the most difficult issues on our way to the agreement. We agreed to take necessary measures to complete the formation of the common customs space by July 2010. Mutual understanding based on historic ties and brotherly friendship between our peoples helped us."

The three leaders said that they “are open to cooperation with other integration alliances.” “We confirm the intention of our three states to join the World Trade Organization as soon as possible,” they stressed.