Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Moldova
The GUAM summit in Baku
A day before the Summit, representatives of the foreign ministries of the organisation 'GUAM - for Democracy and Economic Development' held a joint meeting on June 18th in Baku. The Azeri and Georgian hosts were represented at the foreign ministerial level, while Ukraine and Moldova at the deputy foreign ministerial level. They held a press briefing on the Baku Declaration to be signed.
They announced that Azerbaijan will take over the 2007-2008 presidency from Ukraine, as well as gave details of the agenda, budget and symbols for this period. They declared that the organisation would not be directed against the much larger CIS. According to Azeri foreign minister Mammadyarov, there are no limits to the enlargement of GUAM, provided the aspirant country adheres to the principles laid down by the founders. They also confirmed that the creation of a joint peacekeeping force is not on the agenda. (The Georgian head of government, Gela Bezhuasvili announced at the beginning of the week that the member-states would establish a joint peacekeeping unit to maintain peace in the region.) The meeting continued on the 19th with the participation of Ilham Aliyev Azerbaijani, Victor Yushchenko Ukrainian, and Mihail Saakashvili Georgian presidents and Moldovan Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev.
The presidents of Romania, Poland and Lithuania, as well as the deputy parliamentary president of Estonia attended the summit as guests. The presence of the United States, the Organisation for European Security and Cooperation, as well as Japan demonstrated the significance of the summit.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko of the organisation's retiring presidency appraised the activities of GUAM thus far. He stressed that during its ten-year-long existence, the organisation - a loose alliance of friendly countries - has grown into a significant international institution, which is listed among the institutions of international cooperation. This is corroborated by the fact that 30 different delegations from several countries and international organisations are participating in the work of GUAM. (Following the GUAM-USA and GUAM-Poland talks a GUAM-Japan meeting was organised for the first time in which the Japanese side showed interests in the development of relations in the spheres of energy, transport and ecology.) Yushchenko detailed the activities of the Virtual Centre designed to combat terrorism, organised crime and human trafficking. Joint transport and free market projects are progressing.
The member-states also brought their unresolved problems to the Summit. Ukraine wants to have the 1932-33 imposed famine, the 'Holodomor' recognised as genocide against the Ukrainian people at the UN general assembly scheduled for the autumn. The member-states have established a ministerial-level working group to deal with the issue.
Azeri president Ilham Aliyev perceives the UN decision to include the region's frozen conflicts on its agenda as a significant diplomatic achievement for the GUAM. Beyond the common historical heritage, the countries of the organisation, but first and foremost Moldova, Georgia and Azerbaijan, are tied together in their efforts to stem separatism. In Aliyev's view, the territorial integrity of these countries has been violated. Separatist forces in Transdniester, Abkhazia and Nagorno Karabakh continue to fuel conflicts in the three countries. According to the Azeri president, the conflicts should be resolved peacefully and on the European models of autonomy. However, without a strong economy and a strong army it is unlikely that the occupiers would relinquish these territories voluntarily.
Mihail Saakashvili described his country's present situation as highly dangerous, since - in his view - in many aspects it is a reminder of the 20th century burdened with dictatorships when the Munich dissections were followed by the Great Power agreement in Yalta. As regards the peaceful settlement of the conflicts, Saakashvili counts on the constructive conduct of Russia. He is expecting 21st century solutions, instead of the re-division of the territories.
Prime Minister Vasile Tardov, representing Moldova, referred to the joint power the member-states could mobilise to resolve the frozen conflicts. For the protection of independence and territorial integrity, the creation of energy security is necessary.
The declaration, signed at the end of the meeting, emphasises that the efforts of the member-states to resolve the conflicts will succeed. It envisages cooperation in the spheres of human rights protection and security policy, as well as in international organisations.
It is striking however that Chisinau was not represented at the Summit at the presidential level. Moldova's dissatisfaction with the European Union's negative attitude vis-a-vis the country's integration - could be one of the reasons. According to an official explanation, Vladimir Voronin had prior commitments to travel to Luxembourg and Brussels where he participated in the work of the Moldova-EU Cooperation Committee, which coincided with the timing of the Summit. It is more likely however, that the disappointed Moldova - searching for allies - wants to reinforce its ties with Russia. This is underpinned by Voronin's forthcoming visit to Moscow for talks with President Putin.
US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice reassured the organisation of her country's continuing support. She sees the enhancement of cooperation between the United States and GUAM in the spheres of trade, transport and rights protection.
The transfer of the GUAM presidency occurred under rather stormy political conditions. The expansion of NATO's missile defence system and NATO's enlargement plans involving Georgia and Ukraine are causing tensions in American-Russian relations. Ukraine - the country leading the organisation - is overwhelmed by domestic political crises. The other three countries are struggling to protect their territorial integrity, while ostensibly the big neighbour, Russia is helping to 'freeze' the problems and to conserve the trouble spots.
Undoubtedly, the changes in the world's energy situation, too, have contributed to the unprecedented international interest vis-a-vis the second summit of the organisation. Evidently, American and Union politics - which have been far from consequential with regard to the problems of the region - suddenly recognise the looming dangers entailed in the present monopolistic position of Russia, particularly in energy policy.
With American and Union policies that are void of concepts and perspectives and focus only on the 'pipe', the member-states of GUAM have very little chance to solve their problems without effective Western help.