Ahead of a planned summit in Kyiv which is expected to institutionalize GUUAM, its five member countries–Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova–are taking collective steps to assert their association’s presence on the international level. The government of Azerbaijan seems to be playing a coordinating role in these efforts at this juncture.
The five countries have registered with the United Nations the documents of GUUAM’s September summit in New York as founding documents. The Memorandum, signed by the presidents on that occasion, underscores the group’s aspiration to develop direct links with the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Union and the North Atlantic Alliance. That statement makes clear that GUUAM’s countries do not consider themselves to be part of a “CIS space” and that they see their future in association with the West.
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has now publicly taken up his Georgian counterpart Eduard Shevardnadze’s suggestion that the governments of Romania and Bulgaria should consider the possibility of joining GUUAM in some form next year. Such a move would become a part of common efforts to secure the westward transit of Caspian oil and gas and the creation of transit corridors from Western Europe to the South Caucasus. The chairman of the Verkhovna Rada’s foreign relations committee, Ihor Ostash, has announced plans to hold an interparliamentary conference of GUUAM countries as early as January 2001 in Baku.
That proposal came in the wake of the inaugural meeting in Chisinau of the “GUUAM national coordinators”–an office specially created in each of the five member countries. That meeting discussed ways to implement the September summit’s decisions. It focused on energy imports, the creation of transit routes, the goal of forming a GUUAM free trade zone, and prospects for the accession of new member countries. The Ukrainian government has taken a lead in drafting proposals toward the creation of a free trade zone.
In the United States, the GUUAM countries’ ambassadors have inaugurated a practice of making joint appearances to expound their common positions on regional and international problems. In an early November debut as a group, the ambassadors of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova shared a university platform to discuss the problems posed by Russian troops in the South Caucasus and Moldova and related challenges to their countries. The five countries have launched an electronic newsletter, GUUAM News, the inaugural issue of which came out in late October and which is being distributed out of Washington.
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