GUAM Leaders Pledge to Boost Regional Cooperation

CHISINAU, Moldova -- Leaders of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova – countries, which form GUAM coalition, described the summit in Chisinau, Moldova on April 22 as a turning point in boosting regional cooperation.

Summit in Chisinau was attended by the Presidents of Romania and Lithuania, Traian Basescu and Valdas Adamkus respectively. President of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski could not arrive in Chisinau despite earlier pledge to participate in the summit. U.S. Department of State senior negotiator for Eurasian conflicts and Caspian energy issues Steven Mann also participated in the summit.

Georgian President’s press office reported, that the GUAM leaders adopted at the summit two declarations: one regarding the development of stability and democracy among the GUAM member countries and another – Democracy from Caspian to Black Sea.

GUAM leaders also discussed Ukraine’s proposal over military cooperation. “It is possible that joint [GUAM] armed forces might be involved in the process of resolution of conflicts,” information note issued by the Georgian President’s press office reads, but this note does not elaborate further details of this potential military cooperation.

“It is possible to think about realization of peacekeeping potential of GUAM member countries. For example, creation of a joint military force for participation in [peacekeeping] operations under the aegis of UN, or OSCE,” Victor Yushchenko, the Ukrainian President said.

Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko said that “a new page was written” in GUAM history by the Chisinau summit.

Yushchenko said that the GUAM stands on, as he put it, “three whales” – democracy, economic development and security/stability.

“There are four hot spots [Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transdnestria and Nagorno-Karabakh] in our region. And Ukraine sets giving a boost to resolving at least one of these conflicts as its goal,” Yushchenko said. He also stated that Ukraine has drafted a proposal over Transdnestria conflict resolution, titled “Seven Steps,” adding that Ukraine will submit the full plan within three weeks.

Victor Yushchenko also emphasized on the issue of boosting organization’s cooperation with EU. “Our goal of creating a zone of stability, security, and prosperity is tightly linked with the European Union, and it should be [achieved by following] European rules and standards," RFE/RL reported quoting Yushchenko as saying. He also said that a new regional organization based on GUAM should be created with “its own office, its own secretariat, and its own plan of actions.”

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev also underlined the importance of regional cooperation focused more on conflict resolution issues. “Our organization is emerging as a powerful force, participating in resolving problems in the Caspian-Black Sea region… [GUAM] member states share a common approach against terrorism and separatism,” Ilham Aliyev, the President of Azerbaijan stated after the summit was over, adding that the joint declaration reflects these very same principles.

Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin also spoke much about the separatist conflicts and called other members of the coalition to increase coordination and cooperation within the organization.

“We should coordinate our positions over democracy development, economy and especially regarding the security-related issues. Threat coming from the separatist enclaves in our region and statements made by them are humiliating for civilized community,” Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin stated.

“I think it is of vital importance that our positions coincide that the preservation of previous, and as they turned to be, ineffective approaches to conflict resolution is no longer possible,” he added.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili spoke about the necessity of further democratization on the post-Soviet space with reference to Belarus, as well as called Moldova to jointly act in an attempt to achieve pull out of Russian bases from Georgia and Moldova in the shortest period of time.

“People of Belarus, as well as others in post-Soviet space, have right for free choice, right to freely express their will, to freely express their political views,” President Saakashvili said.

He also said, while speaking about Russian military bases, that Russian troops “are stationed in Georgia against the will of the Georgian people. Their presence serves neither Georgia’s nor Russia’s interests, they also do not serve the regional security.”

Georgian Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili, who also was in Chisinau on April 22, told Georgian reporters that the presence of Romanian and Lithuanian Presidents at the GUAM leaders’ summit proves that the organization is becoming a focus of regional cooperation.

“There will be no talks today about who might become a new member, but this organization is moving in the direction [of enlargement],” Salome Zourabichvili said.