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UN: GUAM Brings Frozen Conflicts To World Stage

  • Nikola Krastev --> The presidents of (left to right) Moldova, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and Georgia at a summit in Kyiv in May (official site) UNITED NATIONS, September 27, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- The countries that make up GUAM (now renamed the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development-GUAM) are pushing for a resolution of their "frozen" conflicts at the United Nations.

On the sidelines of the 61st UN General Assembly currently under way in New York, Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova on September 25 held ministerial-level talks, where they discussed the conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transdniester.

In the last 15 years, frozen conflicts in the GUAM region, namely in Moldova, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, have affected the lives of over 16 million people. Not only that, but they've remained a threat to international peace and security, according to a joint statement by the GUAM foreign ministers to the General Assembly.

Greater Awareness Needed

The push for greater recognition seems to have worked. A discussion on frozen conflicts in the General Assembly is now scheduled for November 6. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said that GUAM will continue preparatory activities until that time.

"The GUAM heads of state in their joint declaration on the issue of conflict settlement called upon [UN] states and international organizations to further facilitate, within their competence, the process of settlement of conflicts in the GUAM area," he said. "Therefore, the inclusion of the new item on the conflicts in the GUAM area in the agenda of the General Assembly is an attempt to raise [the] awareness of the assembly about dangerous developments emerging from those unresolved conflicts."

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk told the General Assembly that the protracted conflicts continue to destabilize peace and security in the region, and prevent economic development. What's needed, he said, is global awareness.

"It is an important step that will help to draw the attention to the need of more active and effective steps of the international community in order to achieve progress and settlement in conflicts on the territory of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Moldova," Tarasyuk said. "These conflicts are among the main obstacles for the full-scale democratic transformations in the region, which is among the core elements of the regional policy of Ukraine."

International Help Needed

Georgia, in particular, is placing high hopes on the General Assembly debate. It is dealing with two frozen conflicts -- in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In November, South Ossetians will vote in a referendum on independence.

Speaking at the General Assembly on September 22, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said international organizations needed to lend a hand to find a solution.

"The essential elements of this package must include the demilitarization of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, backed by the active engagement of the UN, OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe], the European Union, and other international organizations," Saakashvili said. "This must include direct dialogue between parties on the ground, and here I mean the central Georgian government and the separatist authorities -- so that together we can assume responsibility for rebuilding the peace."

Russian Objections

Russia, however, is not impressed. It dismissed the GUAM member states' attempts to engage a wider UN audience in matters that Moscow considers foreign-policy priorities. In particular, Russia supports independence drives in Transdniester and South Ossetia.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the GUAM initiative a "propagandistic step" and said that hearings at the General Assembly will not produce anything positive.

And last week in an interview with a Greek newspaper, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said that Moscow will not allow GUAM peacekeepers into frozen-conflict zones, regardless of what is discussed at the General Assembly.

As Russia is a veto-wielding permanent member of the UN Security Council, it certainly won't be plain sailing for GUAM.
The Kremlin Looks At Kosovo...And Beyond
Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) greets Serbian President Boris Tadic in the Kremlin in November 2005 (TASS)

WILL THE KREMLIN BACK INDEPENDENCE? As the drive for independence grows in the Serbian province of Kosovo, the international community is speculating on how Russia, a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, will act. On September 22, Nicholas Whyte, director of the International Crisis Group's Europe Program, gave a briefing on the subject at RFE/RL's Washington, D.C., office. He speculated on what the Kremlin's "price" might be for agreeing to Kosovo's separation from Serbia.


Listen to the entire briefing (about 45 minutes):
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RFE/RL's coverage of Kosovo and Russia.


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