Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 233

GUAM initiative on "unresolved conflicts" stymied at UN

Uganda, Angola, Mali, Myanmar, and Venezuela have joined Armenia, France, and Spain in a Russian-led effort to deny the GUAM countries the right to bring their concerns before the United Nations General Assembly.

On December 13, in the Assembly’s agenda-setting General Committee, the aforementioned countries rejected an initiative by Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova to introduce an item on “Unresolved Conflicts in the Black Sea-South Caucasus Region and their Implications for International Peace, Security and Development” on the General Assembly’s agenda. With most other countries abstaining or not voting, only the United States and Britain spoke in favor of the GUAM group’s initiative.

Introducing the initiative in a memorandum on the four countries’ behalf, Moldova noted that unresolved conflicts in Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Karabakh seriously jeopardize international peace and security. Those territories breed threats and challenges of traditional as well as new types, including those from armed separatism, trafficking in arms and humans, as well as hindering economic and democratic development, the presentation noted. As diplomatic efforts toward conflict-resolution “stagnate” in each case, and no results are in sight, the GUAM presentation said, it would be appropriate to bring that overall situation before the General Assembly for the first time. Consideration of this issue by the General Assembly could draw international attention to this situation and hopefully lend impetus to the stalled negotiations, the GUAM statement concluded.

Aligning itself with Moldova’s statement, Ukraine underscored the United Nations’ “obvious, central role” in upholding the principle of territorial integrity of member countries and in maintaining peace and stability at the regional level. By proposing to submit the item to the General Assembly, the four countries simply wanted to bring the matter into the international arena in the forum where it belongs, and where none of these four countries had ever denied others the right to a hearing of their concerns, Ukraine said.

Georgia added the argument that the more international attention is brought to the conflicts, the better the chances of movement toward political settlements. Noting that the UN Security Council had been discussing the situation in Abkhazia for years without any results, Georgia remarked that the issue of aggressive separatism clearly belongs within the General Assembly’s scope, as part of an international issue involving the territorial integrity of U.N. member countries far beyond the region under discussion.

Azerbaijan, citing 13 years of fruitless OSCE mediation, said that the return of Azerbaijani territories and of refugees to their homes should be among the main goals of political settlement of conflicts in the region. Such settlement would boost development of all countries in the region through trans-boundary trade and transport. Inclusion of the GUAM-proposed item on the Assembly’s agenda would help to promote that aim, Azerbaijan said, in a clear olive-branch gesture to Armenia.

Russia opposed the GUAM proposal as “politically inappropriate” and “counter-productive.” The Russian delegate cited approvingly the negotiations under way in the “existing processes and mechanisms,” which is Moscow’s standard defense of the decade-old negotiating formats it created and it controls. Moreover, Russia said, the proposal to add this agenda item “runs counter to efforts to streamline the Assembly’s work.”

Armenia seconded Russia’s argument that, at a time when the General Assembly was aiming to streamline its work, there was no case to be made that the GUAM request had the “urgent” character required by the Assembly’s rules of procedure. Moreover, Armenia cautioned, the request was “attempting to create parallel processes to those already under way in the OSCE.”

France supported Russia’s position that this was not the time for the General Assembly to take up these questions, which in any case “belong in other groups and organizations that are dealing with these matters,” particularly the OSCE. France added a favorable reference to the OSCE’s Minsk Group, where France holds a co-chairmanship as a relic of its past ambitions.

In a similar vein, Spain said that inclusion of the item on the General Assembly’s agenda could be counterproductive to existing efforts to resolve the conflicts. The Spanish Socialist government’s friend Venezuela aligned itself with that position.

Uganda began with the necessary clarification that Uganda had been following this matter. It opposed the inclusion of the matter on the Assembly’s agenda, as “Uganda believes that the OSCE’s efforts are now headed in the right direction, and that this is not the time to duplicate those efforts.” Mali, too, seemed to rally to the OSCE’s support by saying that there were valid mechanisms already in effect to address the conflicts in the Black Sea-South Caucasus region.

This combination of countries prevailed, and the General Committee killed the GUAM proposal.

(UNGA General Committee document A/60/234; Pan-Armenian News, Trend, December 14)