Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 224

On November 20-22, the self-styled foreign affairs ministers of Transdniester, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Karabakh met in Transdniester’s city of Tiraspol under Russian military protection. The unprecedented event appeared timed to the OSCE’s November 27-28 annual conference of foreign affairs ministers and to the December 1 summit of the CIS.

The group–made up of Valery Litskay, Sergey Shamba, Marat Dzioev and Naira Melkumian–adopted a statement of common purpose and issued a would-be diplomatic communiqué, both of which documents were publicized internationally from Yerevan. The programmatic statement announced the creation of a permanent forum–the “Conference of Foreign Affairs Ministers”–to meet alternately in the four would-be states.

Describing the four unrecognized entities as de facto existing states with their own administrative, economic and security systems, the statement includes a general blueprint for settling the conflicts which pit the breakaway authorities against the central governments of Moldova, Georgia and Armenia, respectively. The blueprint envisages: “sovereign equality” between the breakaway authorities and the central governments as “the sole possible basis for the resolution of these conflicts;” “mutual political, economic, military and diplomatic guarantees” among the parties to each of the conflicts; and “international guarantees” in the postconflict period by “guarantor countries” and international organizations.

These points are hardly new, but their international enunciation by the four secessionist authorities as a commonly held stand does represent a novelty. The first point implies official recognition of the breakaway regions as states; the second implies a set of pacts between the central and the breakaway authorities, including a military pact of “nonaggression” under which the secessionist armies would be legalized; the third implies guarantees by Russian “peacekeeping” or “stabilization” troops, with token participation by other countries, and with the blessing of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and/or the UN as part of a direct arrangement between them and Russia.

The blueprint amounts to a prescription for creating an internationally tolerated Russian sphere of influence. It closely adheres to the concept which Yevgeny Primakov and Boris Pastukhov first developed in 1997-98 as minister and first deputy minister of foreign affairs of Russia, and which remains Moscow’s official position to date. Primakov, moreover, has been tasked in June of this year by President Vladimir Putin to implement a settlement along those lines in Moldova. The leaderships of Georgia and Azerbaijan, for their part, have refused to walk into that trap.

The four-party communiqué out of Tiraspol attacked the emerging GUUAM association of Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova. In that regard as well, the document aired Moscow’s known position. It expressed concern over “GUUAM’s growing activity and expanding prerogatives” and over GUUAM’s proposals to admit such countries such as Romania and Bulgaria. And it sharply criticized GUUAM for discussing the formation of a peacekeeping unit of its own and for cooperating with NATO’s Partnership for Peace program–“that is, with NATO itself.”

Melkumian took the lead in accusing GUUAM’s countries of creating “lines of division in the post-Soviet territory”–an allusion to the splitting of the CIS as a consequence of GUUAM’s emergence. Melkumian portrayed GUUAM’s progress as inherently hostile to the four breakaway regions and even to the state of Armenia, inasmuch as Georgia and Azerbaijan’s membership in GUUAM “divides” the South Caucasus to Armenia’s detriment.

The four envoys also held Moldova, Georgia and Azerbaijan responsible for creating “lines of division” within those countries by refusing to recognize the breakaway regions as states. By their logic, lines of division originate not in the externally sponsored armed secession of parts of sovereign countries, but in the refusal of the targeted countries and the international community to recognize those secessions (Olvia Press (Tiraspol), November 23; Noyan-Tapan, November 24, 30; see the Monitor, November 30; Fortnight in Review, December 1).