Leaders of Black See countries gather for summit

Summit of the leaders of the Black See countries takes place on Monday. On the agenda combatting the region's drug- and people-smuggling networks, finding ways of tackling pollution and discussing alternative energy routes.

The Black Sea region faces "new threats caused by criminality and terrorism, and insecurity caused by the security of energy (supplies), and we are called to manage this and improve it," Romanian President Traian Basescu noted. "We know our problems ... they are problems inherited from a difficult past, but there is the real potential for development."

The main topics on the summit's agenda would be environment protection, regional cooperation, joint energy projects, combatting cross-border crime and improving infrastructure.

Among those attending were Presidents Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine, Mikhail Saakashvili of Georgia, Robert Kocharian of Armenia, Vladimir Voronin of Moldova and Ilham Aliev of Azerbaijan, as well as officials from Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece and Lithuania.

Top officials from NATO, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the United Nations and the Council of Europe were also attending the summit.

Russia declined to send a high-level official to the summit, but requested observer status. In his speech, Basescu called on Russia to participate in the region's future development.

"Romania considers that a regional cooperation process cannot take place without Russia," he said, pointing to the "rich social, political and economic resources," that Russia has. Russia was represented at the summit by its ambassador to Romania, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Corina Vintan said.

On Sunday, Basescu met separately with Kocharian and Aliev to discuss ways to reach a settlement for Nagorno-Karabakh, Basescu's office said in a statement.

Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Ukraine, Russia and Georgia directly border the Black Sea, which is one of the world's most polluted seas. Its only outlet is via Turkey's Bosphorus Straits, reports the AP.

N.U.