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CIS leaders fail again to secure free trade zone agreement

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The Economic Council of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) has again failed to conclude signature of a draft CIS free trade zone agreement, First Deputy Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Umirzak Shukeyev said on Friday.

The Economic Council of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) has again failed to conclude signature of a draft CIS free trade zone agreement, First Deputy Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Umirzak Shukeyev said on Friday.

"There are bilateral agreements on free trade zone between all the CIS countries but there is no unified [agreements]," Shukeyev said. "It is very difficult to reconcile the interests of a large [organization], where there are so many countries, but, nevertheless, we are close to achieving this goal," he added.

The parties have agreed to hold another round of talks until mid-October to try to settle their outstanding differences, he said.

A revised draft agreement will be submitted at the next meeting of the prime ministers of the CIS member states on October 18 in St. Petersburg, CIS Executive Secretary Sergey Lebedev told media.

The CIS, a loose association of former Soviet republics, consists of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Ukraine has not ratified the CIS Charter but participates in its activities.

The CIS has been trying to form a free trade zone since as far back as the early 1990's and held a summit in Moscow in May in which a draft agreement was presented, but there was no final signature.

Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia formed their own Customs Union earlier this year and scrapped interstate customs tariffs.

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