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Georgia: OSCE Foreign Ministers To Meet With Georgian President

  • Roland Eggleston

OSCE foreign ministers will get a detailed report on events in Georgia today when interim Georgian President Nino Burdjanadze addresses a two-day OSCE conference in the Dutch city Maastricht. The meeting will be attended by foreign ministers of most of the 55 OSCE states, including U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.

Munich, 1 December 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Interim Georgian President Nino Burdjanadze today will give foreign ministers of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) a detailed preview of presidential elections set for 4 January.

This week's two-day OSCE meeting in the Dutch city of Maastricht will give the ministers their first close-up look at the situation in Georgia since President Eduard Shevardnadze resigned under opposition pressure on 23 November.

An OSCE spokesman says Burdjanadze is expected to discuss the problems facing Georgia as it struggles to repair damage done by the 2 November parliamentary election, which was marked by widespread fraud. She is also expected to review possibilities for improving relations with Moscow and has scheduled a meeting this afternoon with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.

Ivanov leaves the conference this evening and so will not meet U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who arrives tomorrow. The two will confer at another conference in Brussels later in the week.

U.S. diplomats in Maastricht expect Powell to promise U.S. help in developing democracy in Georgia when he addresses the meeting tomorrow. The U.S. has already agreed to send a mission to Tbilisi to help Georgia with economic and political reforms.

Anke Schneider of the German Foreign Ministry said there is widespread support within the OSCE for helping Georgia organize democratic elections according to OSCE standards. "It is important for the future of democracy in Georgia that the elections are seen to be honest and that there is confidence in the electoral process," Schneider said.

The outgoing chairman of the OSCE, Dutch Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, said in Vienna last week the organization should also try to find financial support for Georgia. De Hoop Scheffer leaves the OSCE this week to succeed George Robertson as secretary-general of NATO.

OSCE spokesman Richard Murphy says several of the foreign ministers are expected to comment on Russia's unilateral attempt to resolve Moldova's long-running dispute with the separatist Transdniester region.

Russia announced on 15 November that it had reached agreement with both regions to turn Moldova into a demilitarized federation with a wide degree of autonomy for the Russian-speaking Transdniester area. The agreement would have allowed Russia to maintain about 2,000 troops in the region for several years.

The agreement fell into disarray when Moldova's president, Vladimir Voronin, refused to sign after protests from the United States, the European Union, and other countries that have been trying to negotiate a settlement since 1993. Murphy says the OSCE knew nothing of Russia's initiative until the tentative agreement was announced last month.

Russia will be urged to complete the removal of all of its troops and equipment from Transdniester. At an OSCE conference in 1999 it committed itself to doing so by the end of last year. It failed to meet the deadline and was granted a one-year extension that expires this month. The withdrawal has not been completed, and OSCE officials say they expect Russia to ask the Maastricht conference for a six-month extension.

Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah will use the conference to meet with his German colleague, Joshka Fischer, on Berlin's plans to send a small military force to the northern Afghan city of Konduz next year. It will protect international aid workers helping to rebuild schools, roads, and other civil structures.

The two-day conference will also approve a document titled "New Threats to Security in the 21st Century," which was originally a U.S.-Russia initiative. It discusses how OSCE can participate more effectively in the fight against international terrorism, but also covers problems such as anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and racism.

Other items on the Maastricht agenda include the appointment of a new special representative on freedom of the media. The post is expected to go to Hungarian writer Miklos Haraszty, a prominent dissident under communist rule. The previous special representative, Freimut Duve of Germany, is retiring after six years.

The Maastricht conference will also formally approve Bulgaria as next year's chairman of the organization.