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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

GUAM pokes Russia right in the eye

The Kiev Post reports that the GUAM alliance is holding firm in the wake of Russia's attack on member Georgia:

Parliamentary officials from four ex-Soviet states now broadly aligned with the West pledged to cooperate to resolve conflicts in each of their countries, according to a statement released Monday.

Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova (("GUAM") pledged to increase "inter-parliamentary cooperation with regards to resolving conflicts on their territories," said the statement, adopted Sunday after meeting of parliamentarians from each of the four countries.

They also pledged to uphold democratic values, human rights and political freedom and peace.

Georgia's parliamentary speaker, Nino Burjanadze, said the countries should support each other in energy issues, which he claimed were being "used by the Russian Federation as political pressure."

"Together we can resist the economic and political pressure" of Russia, he said. No details of concrete proposals from the meeting were released.

Burjanadze failed to elicit open support from the three countries for Georgia in its current conflict with Russia, triggered by the arrest last month of four Russian soldiers stationed in separatist Georgian regions.

Moldova's Parliament Speaker Marian Lupu said, however, that his country would never recognize a planned referendum in Georgia's separatist region of South Ossetia. Last month, pro-Russian separatists in Moldova voted to join Russia in a referendum which was not recognized by Moldova.

The statement released after the one-day meeting said that "frozen conflicts" should be resolved "based on respecting territorial integrity, the inviolability of frontiers."

The four countries formed the alliance _ which will be formally registered as an international group under the name GUAM-Organization for Democracy and Economic Development and have a headquarters in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev _ amid trade disputes with Moscow and growing frustration with Russian-dominated Commonwealth of Independent States.

Both Moldova and Georgia have been hurt by Moscow's decision in March to ban imports of Georgian and Moldovan wine.

Russia has cited quality concerns, but the ban is widely seen as retaliation for these countries' pro-Western policies.

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