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Leaders of Black Sea nations pledge closer cooperation
Tue Jun 25, 8:06 AM ET

ISTANBUL, Turkey - The leaders of a group of 11 countries in the Black Sea region pledged closer cooperation Tuesday, at a summit in Istanbul to mark the tenth anniversary of the group's foundation.

Ahmet Necdet Sezer, the president of host nation Turkey which was instrumental in founding the Black Sea Economic Cooperation in 1992, told delegates that the group offered a forum to ease tensions in the region.

"If today we see a relatively peaceful and stable environment taking hold in the Balkans and the Caucasus, the role of BSEC ... should not be underestimated," Sezer said.

The Turkish president said he hoped that the group would work as a force for economic development in a region rich in natural resources.

Later, the leaders including the presidents of Albania, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Moldova, Romania and Ukraine, as well as ministers from Russia, Armenia and Greece signed a joint declaration pledging to extend cooperation in economic, security and cultural areas.

The countries "emphasized their determination to take all the necessary action to combat terrorism," and promised to set up a joint fund for regional development projects, and to work in close cooperation with the European Union ( news - web sites).

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