Source Pravda.Ru

Azeri, Georgian, Moldovan, Ukrainian presidents to discuss future of GUUAM inter-state union

A summit of the GUUAM inter-state union will take place on July 19th-20th in Livadia Palace outside Yalta, the Crimea.

According to the GUUAM information office in Kiev, the summit will be held with the participation of the Azeri, Georgian, Moldovan and Ukrainian presidents.

According to the Uzbek Foreign Ministry, President Islam Karimov will not go to Yalta, but Tashkent "will attentively track the situation development within the union." Uzbek Foreign Minister Sadyk Safayev has previously voiced Tashkent's decision to withdraw from the union "because of poor progress in its activities." In spite of reassuring statements by Ukrainian and Georgian presidents Leonid Kuchma and Eduard Shevardnadze who said that it was too early to plough under the GUUAM since Uzbekistan only withdrew from a number of the organisation's activities, the GUUAM's future is unclear.

Another unpleasant surprise came a day prior to the summit from Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin. In an interview with RIA Novosti, he stated that he considered the GUUAM's activities aimless and that he felt rather pessimistic about the event.

Voronin believes that "there is much ado about the GUUAM, which gives no specific results or progress." According to him, other objectives, which in fact, were the reason to establish the organisation, namely the creation of a transnational corridor for energy carrier transportation and the so-called Silk Way transport route, are also far from practical implementation.

He said that those who proposed to establish the GUUAM "missed something in the very beginning." Voronin was also puzzled by a number of procedural aspects of the summit. For instance, in compliance with the GUUAM Charter, any document can be adopted only by a consensus. However, Uzbekistan suspended its membership in the organisation, which leads to a legal casus, the Moldovan President stressed.

The agenda of the summit includes the discussion of nine documents, including an agreement to establish a free-trade zone within the GUUAM and a declaration on security and stability.

The participants are also expected to resolve the issue of a GUUAM observer status. In this connection, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoly Zlenko stated that the organisation was likely to enlarge.

Representatives of the United States, Russia, Brazil, Turkey, Iran, Romania, Kazakhstan, Bulgaria and Poland, as well as a number of international organisations will take part in the Yalta summit as guests.

Romanian President Ion Iliescu stated during his recent visit to Georgia that his country was interested in obtaining an observer status in the GUUAM.

Kiev also expects to involve Bulgaria, Poland and Lithuania in the integration process.

Observers believe that the Uzbek decision to withdraw from the organisation has been caused by the increasing pace of the country's cooperation with Russia and China within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Besides, Uzbek gas is being transported only via Russia's territory.

The previous GUUAM summit last October resulted in the adoption of the GUUAM Charter, which specified the objectives and officially formalised this structure. At that summit, the participants were quite unambiguous stating that economic cooperation was the organisation's priority. Military and political contacts, as well as military and technical cooperation between the GUUAM member-states are not maintained within the organisation.

Experts believe that low potential of economic relations within the GUUAM is caused by the low level of each member-state's economic development. The World Bank has classified all five GUUAM member-states as the poorest in the world.

They say that there will hardly be any mutual investments or a large-scale joint project implemented by internal resources alone within the next 5-7 years.

A communique to establish the GUAM inter-state union was signed in October 1997 by the Georgian, Ukrainian, Azeri and Moldovan leaders at the Strasbourg EU summit. Uzbekistan joined the organisation in April 1999 at the celebration of NATO's 50th anniversary in Washington. Following this event, the organisation was named the GUUAM.