Defense Ministers Oleksandr Kuzmuk of Ukraine, Davit Tevzadze of Georgia and Safar Abiev of Azerbaijan conferred yesterday in Baku on a set of ambitious ideas for military and security cooperation among their countries. The proposals, apparently initiated by Azerbaijan, focus on creating a joint battalion of the GUAM countries–Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova. The unit would be used for peacekeeping operations in conflict theaters and for providing security along oil pipelines and the planned TRACECA transit corridor. The proposed force would not be directed against any country. It is intended for use with the authorization of GUAM countries, not of the UN or other international organizations.
The defense ministers also discussed cooperation among the three countries’ military industries. In that area, Ukraine is in a position to service and upgrade Soviet-era equipment in the Georgian and Azerbaijani inventories. The ministers met with Azerbaijan’s top political leaders, but not with President Haidar Aliev, who has not yet returned from medical treatment in Turkey. Aliev is known to support the proposals.
Commenting on the ministers’ session, Vafa Guluzade, Azerbaijan’s presidential adviser for foreign policy, pointed out that the recently created GUAM entails not only economic and diplomatic, but also security functions. Three of the GUAM countries are affected by “aggressive separatism,” Guluzade said, and all of them are directly interested in providing security for East-West trade routes across their territories. He admitted that NATO does not favor the creation of a GUAM force. Possibly for that reason, Moldova’s Defense Minister Valeriu Passat did not attend the Baku meeting. Moldova’s military capabilities are, however, not in a league with those of even Georgia or Azerbaijan (Turan, January 21).
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