Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 96

In Kyiv yesterday, President Leonid Kuchma and Foreign Affairs Minister Borys Tarasyuk discussed with Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Vilayet Guliev the possibility of Ukraine’s participation in a peacekeeping operation in Karabakh. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe envisages such an operation, once Armenia and Azerbaijan will have signed a political agreement that would make possible the deployment of international peacekeeping troops. Azerbaijan would especially value the participation of Ukraine as a fellow-member of the GUUAM (Georgia-Ukraine-Uzbekistan-Azerbaijan-Moldova) group of countries. In the course of the Kyiv meeting, Guliev cited with some emphasis the statements made by Kuchma during his visit to Azerbaijan in March. On that occasion, the Ukrainian president identified with Azerbaijan’s position in the dispute with Armenia over Karabakh. He strongly endorsed the principle of the territorial integrity of states as opposed to that of national self-determination, and he called for the early and unconditional return of Azeri refugees to their homes in the solidly Azeri areas, seized by Armenian forces outside Karabakh.

In late April, Ukraine’s envoy Stepan Volkovetsky reaffirmed in Tbilisi that Ukraine fully supports the Georgian government’s position on settling the conflict in Abkhazia on the basis of Georgia’s territorial integrity and the return of refugees. Concurrently, Kyiv renewed its offer to host an international peace conference on Abkhazia. The Abkhaz leadership on May 1 turned down that offer and ruled out any Ukrainian role in an international peacekeeping operation. The Abkhaz want Russia to continue in the capacity of sole “peacekeeper” in the name of the CIS. That is a shared Russian-Abkhaz position; but Moscow finds it convenient to have reaffirmed periodically by Abkhazia.

On May 11, Belarusan President Alyaksandr Lukashenka made that position his own. Meeting with CIS Executive Committee Chairman Yuri Yarov in Minsk, Lukashenka stated that “Belarus categorically opposes the introduction in Abkhazia of any peacekeeping troops other than those of Russia;” and he pledged to veto any such initiative at the upcoming CIS summit in Moscow (Itar-Tass, May 11; Kavkasia-Press, May 1; UNIAN, DINAU, May 15; see the Fortnight in Review, March 30; the Monitor, March 20, 22).