By Graham Earnshaw
SHANGHAI, April 25, Reuter – The presidents of three central Asian countries arrived in Shanghai yesterday to take part in an historic meeting with the leaders of China and Russia aimed at stabilising their volatile region.
Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kyrgyzstan’s President Askar Akayev and Tajikistan’s President Imomali Rakhmonov will sign a co-operation treaty with China’s President Jiang Zemin and Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
The treaty will stipulate that military forces of the five countries do not attack each other, do not conduct exercises aimed at each other, inform each other of the scope of the exercises and set up friendly ties.
Yeltsin is due to arrive in Shanghai this morning. The signing ceremony will take place this afternoon.
Shanghai newspapers hailed the meeting as the largest gathering of international lead-ers held in the city and said it confirmed Shanghai’s importance.
Vast numbers of lights have been strung along the city’s streets, and tall buildings have been ordered to keep all their lights on during the visit of the five presidents.
The Liberation Daily said 700,000 potted plants had been placed along the road from the airport to the hotel where the visiting presidents are staying.
It was not clear why the treaty-signing ceremony was being held in Shanghai rather than in Beijing. One Chinese analyst said the initial idea for the meeting arose during border discussions between the Chinese and Russians.
The three central Asian states were part of the former Soviet Union.
Border disputes between the various parties, particular1y China and Russia, are long standing, but basic agreement on demarcation of the Sino-Russian border was finally agreed in 1991.
Yeltsin has said the demarcation provided by the 1991 treaty would go ahead as planned, but the governor of Russia’s far eastern Primorsky region has said several times Moscow should not cede land to China.
A European diplomat said there was an outstanding border issue between China and Tajikistan, but he doubted the Chinese would push the issue in the near future given the volatile nature of Tajikistan politics. REUTER gae