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GUAM Summit Ending With Question Mark Over Its Future

Presidents Ilham Aliyev (left), Viktor Yushchenko, and Mikheil Saakashvili at the GUAM summit in Batumi
The GUAM group -- consisting of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova -- is ending its summit in the Black Sea resort of Batumi. For the second year in a row, Moldova's President Vladimir Voronin failed to attend the summit, reinforcing the impression that the regional grouping may be faltering.

GUAM has already lost one member -- Uzbekistan -- which withdrew several years ago, citing poor organization.

Voronin gave no public reason for his absence, but it's notable that Russia has been pressing the Moldovans to withdraw from the 11-year-old grouping. Last year, Voronin said he was too busy to attend.

Seen As Pro-Western

Moscow is widely seen as hoping to break Moldova away from GUAM, which it regards as a pro-Western group and a possible counterweight to Russian influence.

For instance, both Georgia and Ukraine have ambitions to join NATO. In addition, Georgia is engaged in a bitter dispute with Russia over what it sees as interference in its breakaway Abkhazia region.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili told a press conference on July 1 that he sees parallels today with the situation in Europe in the 1930's.

"Georgia is in a difficult situation," he said. "There are attempts to repeat the same scenario in Georgia, which has been imposed on Europe after Munich with regard to Czechoslovakia and after the Molotov-Ribbentrop treaty with regard to the Baltic states and Poland. We express our wish and hope that in today's world there will be no new Munich, no new Molotov-Ribbentrop treaty, no new division of Europe into spheres [of influence], no new distribution of territories, no revision of borders."

Ukraine, likewise, is still trying to escape from Moscow's dominance and is eager to establish sources of energy independent of Russia.

Ensuring energy supplies has been a dominant theme of the two-day summit in Batumi. Participants discussed a project to build an oil pipeline from Odessa on the Black Sea to Plock in Poland.

Georgian Energy Minister Alexander Khelaguri said that once the project is completed, it will enable oil to be transported from the Caspian basin to Europe without crossing Russia.

Optimistic Note

Whatever the fears that GUAM will fade away, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko sounded an optimistic note on July 1, noting that the summit had attracted as observers the presidents of two other countries -- Lithuania's Valdas Adamkus and Poland's Lech Kaczynski. U.S. and Czech officials were also there.

"Esteemed present company! First of all, I'd like to thank [our host], Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, for this atmosphere and this dialogue," Yushchenko said. "We had an excellent political day today. We discussed issues of our cooperation. The issues we discussed go far beyond the GUAM framework. It was very pleasant for us to see the presidents of Poland and Lithuania, as well as a unique international group, in the circle of today's partners."

In addition to energy issues, the summit discussed transport, economic and security development, and humanitarian aid.

RFE/RL’s Georgian Service contributed to this report