On June 7th, the heads of the five GUUAM states met in the Livadia imperial palace in Yalta, in the very historic hall where the post-World War II Yalta World Order was designed. But, unlike that historic meeting, the GUUAM summit delivered a modest document - the Charter of GUUAM, which has not transformed this informal intergovernmental group into an international organization. A widely expected agreement on a free trade zone was not signed; however, bold prospects were floated, which, if realized, would have the potential of creating an emerging sub-regional entity.
In dealing with Russia's determination to export CPC oil through the Turkish Straits, claiming the right of 'free passage' under Article 2 of the Montreaux Convention, Turkey could use several trump-cards. By cracking down on environmental pollution and unsafe vessels flying under flags of convenience, Turkey could directly control the flow of traffic through the straits. Turkey could do so by simply following the letter of the law, and could find allies in maritime and environmental circles.
When Afghanistan's ruling Taliban announced that non-Muslims would be required to wear identification to that effect, Western officials and media were quick to condemn the decision. While most criticisms drew parallels to the Nazi persecution of Europe's Jews, the Israeli government did not voice the expected outrage. Israel's clandestine relationship with Afghanistan reaches much deeper, and has far greater implications for the region. Israel's secret intelligence relationship with opposing factions in Afghanistan's lingering civil war serves its multi-tiered national security objectives in the region, including the monitoring of Iran, the containment of Islamic fundamentalism, and the development of strategic partnerships with likeminded states. As a result, Israel will continue to be an active player in Afghanistan, unfortunately perpetuating the conflict.
Kazakhstan President Nazarbaev's appointment on May 31, 2001, as the Chairman of the Inter-state Council of the newly established Eurasian Economic Community (EEC) once again puts Nazarbaev in the forefront of integration efforts in the CIS. The new EEC represents the most significant Eurasian regional effort to harmonize labor, customs, tax, and trade policies since the disintegration of the USSR. While previous attempts to establish free trade arrangements among the post-Soviet states have met with limited success, there are prospects that the provisions of the new EEC agreement -harmonizing and coordinating policies among Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan - may go substantially beyond previous measures.
Given the demand-driven character of the global trade in illegal drugs, the eradication of opium poppy in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan is bound to lead to an increase in production elsewhere. If the recent history of another major drug-producing area, the Andes region, is of any relevance, a major increase in production is to be expected in neighboring and unstable areas suitable for cultivation: that is to say, the Central Asian republics, especially Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The possible ramifications of such a development are immense.
BACKGROUND: In his annual report to the Parliament on May 12, President Eduard Shevardnadze devoted substantial space to proposals of constitutional amendments which he submitted to Parliament. The proposed amendments among other provide for the introduction of a Cabinet headed by a Prime Minister, empower the President to dissolve the Parliament and to make forceful alterations to the budget without Parliament's compliance. A few days later Shevardnadze nominated Speaker Zurab Zhvania as his candidate for the premiership.
As a result of severe drought, water has become an acute problem in Central Asia. Governments, international agencies and others are trying to find a solution to this problem. The proposal to re-route Siberian river of Ob-Irtish to Central Asia evolved already in 19th century. This proposal was never realized, but recently resurfaced. The question was reportedly brought up during the official visit of the Uzbek President Islam Karimov to Russia in early May. Can Ob-Irtish be the panacea for Central Asia’s water problems?
BACKGROUND: Today Armenia stands at a major crossroads between a politics based on war and a politics based on peace. Numerous observers have noted that the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh, and indeed the constituency that supports the war over that province and its annexation to Armenia, has hijacked Armenian politics. Yet at the same time even presidents who come to power from that constituency and with its support, like the current president, Robert Kocharian, come to see the issue in a different perspective. Those leaders realize that continued war prevents economic progress, improved relations with the West and any significant gains from the forthcoming silk road and overall integration of the Caucasus with the European economy. An insistence on holding onto Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Armenia plus other territories seized from Azerbaijan also ensures Armenia's militarization, insecurity, and most of all dependence upon Russia. The recent American initiative to bring the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan together in Key West apparently made real progress and thus opens up possibilities for peace that confront Armenia with the choice of a more diversified security policy based on reconciliation with Turkey, integration with the West, and a less militarized domestic policy or continuing isolation from Turkey and the West, dependence upon an impoverished Russia, and a continuing reliance upon military conquest.
The first visit to Dushanbe by General Tommy Franks, the head of the US Central Command, and a US$430 million pledge by the Consultative Group for Tajikistan spread over two years constitute the first major recognition by the international community of the need to bolster Tajikistan as it faces renewed threats to its stability and a worsening economic crisis. The country is threatened by economic recession, drought, the activities of the IMU on its territory, drug trafficking, and the Afghan war, which threaten to unsettle the fragile peace in the country.
In the spring of this year, the Nagorno Karabakh peace talks gained an unprecedented momentum towards a peaceful settlement. A deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan will be a painful compromise for both sides. To secure an environment conducive for its implementation, the international community needs to support political stability in the countries, to provide security guarantees and humanitarian and development aid to the region. The alternative to active international involvement is the increased radicalization of the opposition to the Presidents Aliev and Kocharian, and ensuing destabilization. Alternatively, if the negotiations fail to produce a mutually acceptable compromise, Azerbaijan and Armenia are likely to experience a new phase of military escalation.