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Ukraine/Georgia: Presidents Discuss Common Policies

By Yuri Svirko --> President Saakashvili (file photo) The Georgian and Ukrainian heads of state met in Kyiv on 25 March to affirm their mutual cooperation and to discuss both regional and bilateral issues. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko signed a declaration to enhance their countries' strategic partnership. They also emerged with pledges to assist each other's efforts to join the EU and NATO, contribute to efforts to resolve frozen conflicts in the Transdniester and Abkhazia, and re-energize the regional GUUAM alliance.

Kyiv, 25 March 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Georgian President Saakashvili said after the meeting that his country regards Ukraine as a regional leader in economic, security, and political issues.

Speaking at a joint news conference, Saakashvili noted that Georgia and Ukraine are back at work following the rose and orange revolutions that ushered in reformers in both countries. Saakashvili began his statement in the Ukrainian language: "I was last in Kyiv with champagne and greeted Kyivans on the victory and New Year. But the holiday is over, and everyday work has begun. This is no longer a meeting of two revolutionaries; this is a meeting of two leaders."
"We will cooperate not only bilaterally, but we will help each other in our move toward NATO and the European Union."

Both men have offered to intervene in Kyrgyzstan, where protesters alleging fraud in recent parliamentary polls seized control of the presidential and government headquarters in the capital, Bishkek, on Thursday. They urged the Kyrgyz people to refrain from violence in resolving their country's current crisis.

Yushchenko and Saakashvili also renewed a previous pledge to boost the flagging GUUAM grouping, which also allies Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova. The two men had already agreed with Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin to create an "orange belt" around Russia to reinvigorate GUUAM.

Yushchenko said proposals for concrete projects will be presented to GUUAM members at a summit next month: "More attention should be paid by both sides to the work of GUUAM. And the two sides agreed on the idea of presenting on 22 April new projects for that organization's activities."

Turning to the so-called "frozen conflicts" in the region, Saakashvili said he backs Ukrainian initiatives aimed at settling such conflicts -- including those in Transdniester and Georgia's breakaway republic of Abkhazia.

Saakashvili said his country has already begun talks with the breakaway republic of Abkhazia. But he added that the "high level of respect for Ukraine in the region" could play an important part in any settlement.

The Georgian president also asserted that both sides are committed to furthering the other's efforts to join European and Atlantic institutions: "We will cooperate not only bilaterally, but we will help each other in our move toward NATO and the European Union, Euro-Atlantic bodies. We will help each other in resolving the 'frozen conflicts' that arise in this region. And the issue of Transdniester is important for us, too, since it creates a precedent for Abkhazia."

Yushchenko said Ukraine and Georgia will present a joint proposal for settling the Transdniester crisis -- brought on by a separatist dispute in eastern Moldova -- at the upcoming GUUAM summit. That gathering will be held in the Moldovan capital Chisinau.

"Both sides can develop a new initiative that will ensure great progress in solving this conflict," he said.

Yushchenko and Saakashvili also discussed economic and trade issues today. The Ukrainian president said geopolitics should encourage both countries' involvement in international projects linking Asia, the Transcaucasus, and Europe: "We have discussed in detail the issue of supplying Ukrainian electricity to Georgia, Iran, and Iraq -- and a project for supplying Caspian energy via Ukraine to Europe."

Saakashvili came to power in elections in January 2004 -- following the nonviolent Rose Revolution. Yushchenko emerged from Ukraine's Orange Revolution in November and December vowing to re-orient his country toward the West and reform its corrupt institutions.