Georgia interested in preserving GUUAM

The next summit of the GUUAM regional organization, comprising Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova, is due in 2003 in Tbilisi, said Georgia's president Eduard Shevardnadze, who will be chairing the union next year.

Georgia will set up an extraordinary committee headed by the state minister or the foreign minister, to work for fulfilling the country's obligations within the GUUAM and to arrange the Tbilisi summit, Shevardnadze said in an interview with the national radio on Monday.

The GUUAM "was not created as an alternative to the CIS or another regional organization", the president stressed. "Our geopolitical space is so diversified; democratic states, including the former Soviet states, want to solve such difficult problems, that overlap their interests naturally necessitates the formation of different organizations, including consultative structures or regional organizations and unions," he believes.

Participation in the GUUAM or another organization does not exclude intensified efforts in other unions for solving a particular problem, Shevardnadze said.

The Georgian president does not exclude "healthy competition" between different organizations. In this connection he mentioned the agreement on creating a free trade zone signed at the GUUAM Yalta summit held last week.

"This regime within the GUUAM may help to put into practice the agreement on the CIS free trade zone signed a few years ago," he added.

The communique on creation of the interstate union was signed in October 1997 by the presidents of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova on the sideline of the EU summit in Strasbourg.

In April 1999 the four presidents met in Washington during the celebrations of NATO's 50th anniversary and decided to admit Uzbekistan to the union. Afterwards it was renamed in the GUUAM. Yet some time later Uzbekistan announced suspension of its membership in the GUUAM, because of the lack of progress in the union's activities.