Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 222

Senior Foreign Ministry officials of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova held yesterday in Baku the first official meeting of a grouping that designates itself as GUAM (the four countries’ initials). Chaired by Azerbaijan’s foreign minister Hasan Hasanov and attended by Deputy Foreign Ministers from the other three countries, the meeting focused on coordinating the four countries’ policies on issues of common interest within the CIS space, such as: peacekeeping operations, conflict resolution, reliable energy supplies, creation of the Asia-Europe transit corridor via the four countries’ territories, joint steps in international organizations on issues of common interest, and joint promotion of closer relations with the West. Azerbaijan proposed holding consultations with NATO on regional security issues under a 16 + 4 formula (the sixteen NATO and four GUAM countries).

The meeting produced a joint five-part protocol defining common goals in the period immediately ahead as: political cooperation on the international level; resistance to "separatism" and mutual support regarding the settlement of regional conflicts; a common approach to peacekeeping operations; development of transit routes; and preparation of eventual accession to West European and Atlantic institutions.

Azerbaijani president Haidar Aliev, who met with the conferees, anticipated that other CIS member countries may want to join GUAM in order to advance their "national interests" within the CIS. Moldovan president Petru Lucinschi is arriving in Azerbaijan today on an official visit and will then go to Georgia.

Moldovan officials told The Monitor that the quadripartite grouping took shape last spring, when the four countries jointly defended their interests in the final stage of the CFE (Conventional Forces in Europe) treaty’s ratification at the OSCE. By holding out on ratification, the four countries obtained treaty language that restricted Russia’s ability to increase its forces in or near the four countries. The four countries went on to take common positions on regional conflict issues in the OSCE’s permanent bodies, with Ukraine tending to function as spokesman for the four.

On October 10, Presidents Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine, Petru Lucinschi of Moldova, Eduard Shevardnadze of Georgia, and Haidar Aliev of Azerbaijan held a special meeting during the European summit in Strasbourg. They issued a joint communique announcing that the four countries’ interests coincide on major "strategic" issues and stating their intention to coordinate national policies. According to the Moldovan officials present on the occasion, the Presidents agreed to hold regular meetings by the four Foreign Ministers. They also decided that any of the four countries could call for a special GUAM meeting if it needs support in a particular situation. But the officials also stressed that GUAM remains an informal and essentially consultative grouping at least for the time being. (Turan, Russian agencies, Monitor interviews, November 25)

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