Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 130

In the course of visits June 29-July 1 to Tbilisi and Baku, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk has unveiled proposals designed to reduce Russian leverage in the South Caucasus and to begin the institutionalization of GUUAM–the pro-Western grouping made up of Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova.

Tarasyuk’s proposals envision:

–Setting up a permanent “GUUAM coordination office” in each of the five member countries. The offices would oversee multilateral political, economic and security cooperation among these countries. Once created, the five offices would hold periodic general meetings. Kyiv offers to host this year the first meeting of this type.

–Pooling efforts to promote transportation projects for Caspian oil and gas to Central Europe; and submitting joint initiatives in this regard to Western countries and investors. Tarasyuk’s proposals focused on the Azerbaijan-Georgia-Ukraine-Poland route (see the Monitor, June 29), interest in which is growing while the Baku-Ceyhan (Turkey) project marks time.

–Jointly seeking to internationalize the peacekeeping operation in Abkhazia by placing it under the mandate of the United Nations or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). That operation has since its inception in 1994 been a purely Russian one, under a pro-forma CIS mandate which lapsed in 1998, if not earlier. Ukraine is prepared to contribute troops to a UN- or OSCE-authorized force in Abkhazia. Aside from that initiative, Tarasyuk issued an invitation to the Georgian government and the Abkhaz authorities to hold a round of negotiations in Ukraine this year. That, too, could help erode Moscow’s self-arrogated role as arbiter of the conflict.

In Tbilisi, Tarasyuk reaffirmed Ukraine’s support for Georgia’s claim to its due share of the ex-Soviet Black Sea Fleet–a share appropriated by Russia. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and other officials expressed appreciation for Ukraine’s donations of coastal guard cutters and other forms of security assistance to Georgia. On June 20, a first batch of fifteen Georgian officers graduated from military academies in Kyiv, and, during a special visit to Sevastopol on June 30, Georgian Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze accepted, for Georgia’s fledgling navy, Ukraine’s delivery of the Konotop missile cutter.

In Baku, President Haidar Aliev publicly endorsed Leonid Kuchma for reelection as president of Ukraine. Aliev underscored Kuchma’s role in promoting the common interests of independence-minded CIS countries within and outside the framework of the CIS. “The main thing is that Ukraine remain independent,” Aliev added, implicitly defining the stake of the contest between Kuchma and the red forces. Aliev’s announcement follows Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski’s endorsement of Kuchma (see the Monitor, June 29). The wording of those statements and also their timing–well ahead of the October balloting in Ukraine–reflect these countries’ high stake in the continuation of Kyiv’s Western-oriented foreign and security policies (UNIAN, Prime-News, Iprinda, Turan, Azer-press, June 29-July 2).