The GUAM formation (Georgia-Ukraine-Azerbaijan-Moldova) had its origin in the 1996 round of talks implementing the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe. The four countries found they had a common opposition to the stationing of Russian weapons on their territory. GUAM became GUUAM when Uzbekistan joined in April 1999. According to recent reports, the GUUAM countries intend, in spring 2001, to institutionalize their cooperation by forming a permanent international organization. This organization will have its own secretariat (probably in Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine) and a small number of ancillary bodies but will have principally a coordinative function with no supranational authority. In response to this prospect, three schools of thought regarding GUUAM have begun to appear in Western, principally U.S., commentary and analysis.
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Armenia has suffered severe energy shortages since 1991 and has long been looking to Iran to relieve its energy needs. Last year the European Commission decided to back a project for construction of a pipeline from Iran into Armenia. Discussions have now begun with Ukraine concerning the possibility of Iranian natural gas transiting Armenia and Georgia, then travelling either overland through Russia or under the Black Sea into Ukraine and onward to European markets. However, it is unlikely that the gas will get any further than Armenia. Nevertheless, Turkmenistan's President Niyazov must now face Russia and Iran as potential competitors for the European market. Unless Niyazov decides to build the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline (TCGP), both Russia and Iran will have a stranglehold on Turkmenistan's gas and oil exports.
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In an official announcement, the government of Turkmenistan put its cards on the table concerning the diplomatic position that it plans to take on the demarcation of the Caspian Sea and the division of its resources at the summit meeting that will take place on March 8-9 in the port city of Turkmenbashi. This column analyses the content and significance of that announcement in the context of new developments in the region.
Continue reading "New Configurations around the Caspian (1/4)" »
Significant events that will determine the fate of a number of Caspian export pipelines have continued to occur in rapid succession, even as the government of Turkmenistan made a surprise announcement postponing a long-awaited summit among Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakstan, Turkmenistan and Iran. That summit had been scheduled for March 8-9 in the Caspian port of Turkmenbashi.
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