January - March 2004

© Institute for Security and International Studies (ISIS), Sofia

Research Study 21

Hard Copy: ISSN 1311 – 3259


II. Profile Background of the Black Sea-Caspian Sea Area
  1. Geopolitical, Geoeconomic, and Geostrategic Tendencies
  2. Terrorism/Post-Conflict Rehabilitation in Afghanistan and Iraq
  3. Other Sources of Conflict in the Black Sea-Caspian Sea Region
  1. Bilateral Relations
  1. Economic Aspects of the Black Sea Cooperation: National and Regional Perspectives
  2. Political and Security Aspects of Black Sea Regional Cooperation and EU and NATO/PfP Activities

The period from January to March was marked by the geopolitical, geo-economic, and geo-strategic interplay of global centres of power such as the US, the EU, China, Russia, Japan, and India in the Black Sea-Caspian Sea region as well as in the broader region of the ‘Greater Middle East’. All of these power centres were opposed to terrorism. However, counter-terrorism is not a powerful and influential enough factor to create a cohesiveness and unity of purpose among these global actors and local regional powers that would consolidate their stance against political violence movements. Terrorism with Chechen connections took its toll again in Russia – this time in the Moscow metro, where 40 people were killed and 130 other wounded. Some cooperative steps were registered in US-Russian counter-terrorist efforts, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) demonstrated cooperation in the fight against Muslim militants in Central Asia. While the EU increased its efforts to support the post-conflict reconstruction and stabilization in Afghanistan, Japan, the UN, and Georgia took similar measures in Iraq. The slow return to normal in this country a year after the US-led invasion is creating great difficulties for the members of the coalition, their governments, the people of Iraq, and for the “fight against terrorism”. All calls for an end of the military occupation of Iraq, however, are unhelpful, since the result could be similar to the destabilization of Afghanistan after the Taliban took power there. Despite the slow pace of improvement in Iraq and the growing number of lethal attacks on occupation troops there, the success of the post-conflict rehabilitation in this country is in the vital interest of all - both of those who are directly involved in stabilization and a return to normal life there, and of those who criticize the current US administration and its policy of preemptive “regime change”. The gradual involvement of the UN with civilian experts has been a very welcome sign in the last three months.
Iran remained a big “question mark” in terms of nuclear proliferation. Doubts remain that Tehran has an ongoing military nuclear program.
Caspian Sea delimitation is still far from achieving the intended end result – a negotiated convention on the legal status of maritime borders.
Transdniester and Nagorno Karabakh continued to be a burden for the people of the respective regions, as well as for the international organizations and states involved in conflict resolution and dealing with the post-conflict problems.
The new Georgian president was able to overcome the first major challenge of separatists in his country. Georgia is hoping to consolidate its sovereignty despite an uneasy relationship with Russia, the former imperial power in the Southern Caucasus. Russian voters re-elected Vladimir Putin as president, and he continues to push for reforms in a top-down fashion. In the EU and the US, Moscow is dealing with willing and cooperative partners who, however, are not hiding their concerns regarding undemocratic tendencies in the development of the Russian society and state. Additionally, the EU insists on re-formulating a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with Russia that dates from 1997 to reflect the changes since the enlargement to include 10 new members from 1 May this year.

II. Profile Background of the Black Sea-Caspian Sea Area

1. Geopolitical, Geoeconomic, and Geostrategic Tendencies
1) US-China. General Richard Myers, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US armed forces, visited China on 14 January – three years after an incident involving a US spy plane and a Chinese fighter - and met with General Liang Guanglie, chief of general staff of the People’s Liberation Army. Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan visited the US in October last year. The restoration of military-to-military relations is an important confidence-building measure in a period of diplomatic efforts to solve the North Korean nuclear issues. General Myers also visited Japan and Mongolia. The US and China are maintaining a dialog on the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) of the US. The aim of the initiative is to prevent WMD proliferation.

2) Russia-India. India and Russia on 21 January finalized a US$1.5 billion deal on the purchase of a Russian aircraft carrier from the mid-1980s, the “Admiral Gorshkov”. The firepower of the Indian navy was strongly increased by the aircraft carrier, which brings China – its neighbor and rival – into range. In addition, India bought a squadron of MiG-29 multi-role fighters. The Russian side will refit the aircraft carrier and give it the capacity to move task forces into more distant areas. With the powerful “Gorshkov”, the military balance in the Indian Ocean will be changed completely.

3) US-Russia. US Undersecretary of State John Bolton visited Moscow from 29-30 January and discussed President Bush’s Proliferation Security Initiative with Russian leaders. Like Russia, over 60 countries worldwide have declared their support for the initiative. John Bolton met with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the General Staff of the Russian armed forces, and the Ministry of Atomic Energy. He discussed with his Russian counterparts the nuclear program of Iran. An earlier visit by US Secretary of State Colin Powell to Moscow had confirmed a joint interest in stability in Georgia. He assured his Russian hosts that the US is not trying to surround Russia with bases of any kind. He underlined the importance of continuing close collaboration and cooperation with the Russian Federation to fight the “global war on terrorism”.

4) Russia-China. China plans to build a 1’380-km railway that would link the port of Dalian with the Russian port city of Vladivostok, running along the coastline of Liaoning province and the border of North Korea. The railway is expected to boost Chinese trade and economy.

5) EU-China. On 16 March, the EU announced that it was working to end a 14-year-old arms embargo against Beijing, although Washington has urged Brussels not to drop the ban because of China’s human rights practices. The move would be a major political gesture and could further open up trade with the world’s fastest-growing economic heavyweight. Though France is urging the EU to end the embargo, supported by the Netherlands and Spain, other EU states first want to see clear evidence that China’s rights record has improved.

2. Terrorism/Post-Conflict Rehabilitation in Afghanistan and Iraq, Other Security Threats

1) Terrorism
a. SCO. The foreign ministers of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan opened a regional anti-terrorism headquarters on 15 January in Beijing in the context of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Since 2001, the SCO has shifted its focus to combating Islamic militants. It is reasonable to assume that Beijing is trying to use the SCO to counter-balance the increased US military presence in Central Asia, while the anti-terrorist aspect of the organization has little substance as of yet.

b. Chechen Terrorism in Russia. On the morning of 6 February, Chechen terrorists bombed the Moscow metro. Forty peaceful passengers were killed and more than 130 others were injured. Many people are still missing. This was the sixth terrorist blast in the Moscow metro since 1977. The terrorist attack was launched some five weeks before the presidential elections in Russia. President Vladimir Putin said that the authorities had no doubts as to the authors of the terrorist act, whom they identified as Chechen separatists headed by Aslan Maskhadov. US President George Bush condemned the terrorist act and extended his condolences and support to the Russian president and the victims’ families. Despite the high level of danger, stemming from terrorism the level of solidarity among the societies of Russia, Europe, and the US is not adequate to produce the necessary counter-terrorist political product that would lead to more efficient struggle against terrorists. During his visit to Moscow on 26 January, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said that Russia’s fight against Chechen terrorism was an internal affair of the Russian Federation. Washington hopes that Russia will be able to find a political solution to the problem of terrorism while at the same time respecting human rights. Reports from Iraq show that Chechen terrorists are closely involved in the acts of violence in the country, including in training local Iraqi fighters.

c. US-Russia. On 1 March, the US transferred seven Russian nationals from Guantanamo Bay to the control of the Russian government to face criminal charges relating to their terrorist activities during an armed conflict. The US Department of State said it hoped the seven Russians would be detained, investigated, and prosecuted as appropriate under Russian law, and that they would be treated humanely in accordance with Russian law and obligations. The US welcomes and appreciates the cooperation of the Russian government in the war against terrorism and looks forward to working closely in the future in that fight.

2) Post-Conflict Rehabilitation in Iraq
a. Georgia. 207 Georgian special forces joined the occupation forces in Iraq in February. 70 Georgian mine-clearing experts and doctors returned from Tikrit where they have been since August 2003. Georgian President Michael Saakashvili said on 25 February in Washington, D.C. that Tbilisi would further expand its involvement in Iraq (according to US sources in Tbilisi, Georgia will increase its troops by 300 more soldiers by the summer of this year).

b. Japan. In mid-January, Japan started its most risky overseas military mission since World War II by sending 1’000 non-combat troops, including 100 from a Japanese air force team. The concept of “non-combat zones” is hard to apply in Iraq. Japan relies on the Middle East for around 90 per cent of its oil imports. Japanese leaders understand well the danger of Iraq turning into a failed state and a base for terrorist activities as Afghanistan once was, threatening the region and the world, including Japan. Tokyo wants to demonstrate how important the reconstruction of Iraq and not giving in to violence is to the rest of the world. However, Japanese public has serious concerns about the security of the troops, though the base in Samawah, southern Iraq, is relatively safe. Japanese soldiers will take part in purification and distribution of water and rebuilding schools. Tokyo has pledged a total of US$5.0 billion in reconstruction aid for Iraq, including US$1.5 billion in grant aid. A majority of 54 per cent of the Japanese public favor pulling out if there were casualties, and 35 per cent think the mission should continue.

c. United Nations. After meeting on 19 January with top US, UK, and Iraqi officials, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan agreed to send a UN expert team to Baghdad to study the conditions for holding elections. US experts think there is not enough time to organize direct elections by 30 June. Local Iraqi religious leaders insist on direct elections for a government by that date. The UN Secretary-General removed his organization’s international staff from Iraq in October last year after attacks on relief workers and the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad in August 2003 that killed 22 people, including the mission chief, Sergio Vieira de Mello. The transfer of sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government could be a key test for UN’s involvement in the country. The uneasy question of whether to achieve the transfer through caucuses or elections is still pending. The “caucuses” option for choosing an assembly that will elect a government would mean that direct elections should be held in 2005 after the signing of a constitution. The US administration in Iraq wants to prove to the Shi’ite cleric leaders that direct general elections will not bring expected results. The UN expertise is expected to help in this direction. The UN Secretary-General’s special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi concluded that it would not be feasible to hold elections before June. The UN suggested it might help, if asked, with preparations for elections or in forming an interim government. On 16 March, Brahimi restated the UN offer after receiving no response from the Governing Council of Iraq. UN experts have estimated it would take eight months after the legal framework was ready to prepare for elections. Iraq’s provisional constitution, the Transitional Administrative Law, stipulates that elections be held by January 2005. The US Administration confirmed on 16 March that it wants the UN to play a vital role in the future of Iraq, especially in monitoring the elections and in providing expertise on the constitutional process, and UN authorities would very probably agree to work for the preparation of elections by the end of January 2005.

3) Post-Conflict Rehabilitation in Afghanistan
EU. The EU called on the UN to hold a conference on Afghanistan to help its government in the violent conditions ahead of the June presidential elections in the country. The EU High Representative on foreign and security policy, Javier Solana, had visited Afghanistan the week before in an effort to revitalize the international community’s engagement. Only less than 400’000 out of 10 million voters have been registered so far due to dangerous working conditions for UN experts.

4) Other Security Threats
Nuclear Proliferation (Iran). US Undersecretary of State John Bolton on 12 February directly accused Iran of hiding designs for centrifuges capable of producing nuclear-grade material from the IAEA. The US had no doubt that Iran continued to pursue a nuclear weapons program, said Bolton. Despite these accusations, Moscow signed a deal with Tehran in March to ship nuclear fuel to Iran’s Bushehr power plant. UN inspectors in Iran found undeclared high-tech enrichment equipment at an Iranian air force base in mid-February. The discovery is the first to show a link between the nuclear program and the military of Iran. The Iranian side has strongly denounced the accusations, saying Tehran does not have a military nuclear plans, but doubts remain.

3. Other Sources of Conflict in the Black Sea-Caspian Sea Region

1) The Delimitation of the Caspian Sea.
A regular negotiation round on the Convention of the legal status of the Caspian Sea area was convened by Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan on 17 March in Baku. Eleven out of 22 chapters of the convention have been already been negotiated. The rest of the topics will be discussed after consultations with the central authorities of the respective countries. Russia and Iran do not accept any decision on oil and gas pipeline projects on the sea floor that is anything else but consensus-based. Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and host nation Azerbaijan would prefer the construction of such pipelines to be based on bilateral agreements without requiring the consensus of the riparian states. Moscow and Tehran underline ecological concerns, while the other three states stress the importance of economic arguments and political stability for the transit territories. Kazakhstan is eager to use alternative routes, such as Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum, to transport its oil and gas to the world markets.

2) Oil and Gas Issues: BTC.
The US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) announced on 4 February that it would provide US$100 million in political risk insurance for commercial bank loans being made for the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline project that runs through Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey. The project makes a significant contribution to the integration of the Caucasus into the global economy and could provide significant developmental benefits to the people of the three countries.


Experts from Russia, Ukraine and OSCE discussed the Transdniester conflict in Sofia on 26-27 January. The participants agreed to present to the Bulgarian foreign minister, who is also acting as chairman of the OSCE for 2004, a blueprint for the negotiations in Transdniester. This includes tackling the issue between the two conflicting parties in Moldova with the mediation of Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE. The status of Transdniester and the withdrawal of Russia’s 14th Army remain the key obstacles to the reconciliation process in the country. On 24 February, Moldova’s Russian-speaking separatists warned of a new war if NATO, EU, or OSCE forces intervened in the country.


1. Georgia.
(1) Presidential elections were held in Georgia on 4 January, and Mikhail Saakashvili won with 86 per cent of the votes. On 25 January, he formally accepted his obligations as the country’s head of state. US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov attended the inauguration ceremony. Saakashvili’s ambition is to end corruption and bring the country into the European mainstream. (2) Georgia lifted an economic blockade against the rebellious Adjaria region on 18 March after three and a half hours of negotiations between Saakashvili and Adjarian leader Aslan Abashidze in Batumi. The sanctions against Adjaria were imposed on 15 March, when President Saakashvili was not allowed to enter Adjaria ahead of the 28 March parliamentary elections to campaign for the National Movement, which was running against Abashidze, a Russian proxy. The president said after meeting with Abashidze that three principle issues had been resolved: the free organization of the election campaign; re-considering judicial cases against the opposition; and returning arms illegally distributed to the population and the disbanding of illegal armed groups. The Adjarian leader agreed that the Georgian president would establish representative offices in the customs and other institutions of Adjaria. Their major function would be monitoring the financial situation in the region. The Georgian authorities have the obligation to control the customs, borders, ports, and army of the autonomous republic. Adjaria had previously flaunted these rules.
Georgia’s standing in geopolitical, geo-economic, and geo-strategic terms would grow if the EU’s TRACECA infrastructure project were realized and with the launch of the BTC pipeline project. Europe, the US, and Russia have stakes in the future of the Southern Caucasus, where Georgia plays a key role.
Apart from Adjaria, Georgia has to deal with other potential or current domestic separatist movements: Abkhazia and SouthOssetia (dominated by Russia); Samtskhe-Javakheti (with a dominant Armenian population); Kakheti (bordering on Turkey); Mingrelia (the birthplace of former president Zviad Gamsakhurdia); Svaneti (an inaccessible and ungovernable mountainous region, where the Pankisi Gorge shelters Chechen fighters from time to time). Solving the issue of separatism is the big challenge for the young leaders of Georgia.

2. Russia.
(1) On 24 February, Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed the government of Russia. On 1 March he appointed Mikhail Fradkov as new prime minister, replacing Mikhail Kasyanov. Experts said this unexpected step showed Putin’s desire to appoint a more ‘presidential’ cabinet ahead of the presidential elections. Sergei Lavrov was appointed as the country’s new foreign minister, replacing Igor Ivanov, who joined the president’s administration. (2) The Russian Navy on 18 February failed three times to launch a SLBM (submarine-launched ballistic missile) during exercises observed by Putin. The other two legs of the ‘strategic triad’, namely ICBMs (inter-continental ballistic missiles) and heavy bombers, performed successfully. Russia’s military leaders must now concentrate on the state of the nuclear forces based on sea, especially the submarine fleet and its nuclear missiles. (3) Russia’s Central Election Commission on 25 March announced the official results of the 14 March presidential elections. Vladimir Putin was re-elected with 71.2 per cent of the votes. US Secretary of State Colin Powell publicly stated his concern at the level of authoritarianism that was coming back to Russia. The president wields enormous power that has no adequate democratic counterweight. The judicial power has lost much of its independence while the ‘fourth’, unofficial power – the media - came under tight state control. President Putin wants to show that he is already free from the influence of the Yeltsin family. His ambition is to draft the future course of a strong Russia.


1. Bilateral Relations
1. Bulgaria-Ukraine.

In the last days of January the Speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament, Volodimir Litvin, visited Sofia and met with his Bulgarian counterpart, Ognyan Gerdzhikov, President Georgi Parvanov, and Prime Minister Simeon Coburgotski. They discussed bilateral political, economic, and cultural issues as well as participation in peacekeeping operations. Ukraine hosts a big Bulgarian national minority of 230’000, which is treated well by the friendly neighboring country.

2. Russia-Azerbaijan.
In the beginning of February, Azeri President Ilham Aliev visited Moscow and met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Aliev promised to transport Russian oil through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline. He also said the quantity of oil transported by the Baku-Novorossiysk pipeline (from the Azeri coast of the Caspian Sea to the Russian coast of the Black Sea) should be increased. The two leaders agreed to intensify their joint counter-terrorist activities.

3. Russia-Georgia.
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili visited Moscow from 9-10 February and held talks with Russian President Putin. Tbilisi would like to free itself from the Russian military bases on its territory. The closure of these bases and the return of the Russian troops could be subsidized by the US government, as US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Lynn Pascoe said on 13 January. Russia holds the key elements of Georgia’s energy security– oil, natural gas, and electricity. The energy security of the small Caucasian nation is largely dependent on Moscow’s goodwill. The young Georgian president needs good relationship with Russia in a period when is trying to achieve political consolidation and an end to separatist tendencies in Georgia. It will not be an easy task to consolidate the Euro-Atlantic position of Georgia while peacefully neutralizing Russia’s claims for ‘eternal’ presence in the small country at the southern borders of the federation.


1. Economic Aspects of Regional Cooperation in the Black Sea: National and Regional Perspectives

US-Moldova. On 3 February, the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) announced that GlobUS – part of the US corporation International Communications Systems – was planning to introduce prepaid telephone cards to Moldova with the help of a US$150’000 loan from OPIC. The project will “utilise state-of-the-art technology to provide both maximal savings and quality service to Moldova’s citizens, and at the same time give the country the flexibility to offer a seamless convergence of Internet and other value-added services in the future”, OPIC President and CEO Peter Watson said in a press release (

2. Political and Security Aspects of the Black Sea Regional Cooperation and EU and NATO/PfP Activities

a. EU-Russia.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in March that the meeting of the EU „Troika“ (the foreign minister of the rotating presiding country, EU High Representative on Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, and EC External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten) and Russia would be held in the first days of April. Moscow will continue to insist on trade compensations from the EU after the enlargement on 1 May. The calculations by Moscow of the losses are between €250 million and €450 million. Russian experts said the question was not about the arithmetic, but about the chemistry of Russia’s multilateral trade relations with traditional partners. After the enlargement, Russia’s trade with the EU will increase from 36 to 51 per cent. At the same time, Russia thinks it is legitimate to claim compensation for the losses incurred by the Russian economy. However, Moscow does not mention the losses incurred by the small new EU members bordering on Russia due to Moscow’s insistence on keeping high taxes on their goods, and its refusal to apply the lower tariffs according to the 1997 PCA between EU and Russia. The EU foreign ministers have warned Moscow that the EU will impose sanctions on Russia if the new members are not treated as equals to the older ones. In addition, the EU and Russia have diverging views on Moscow’s military bases in Georgia. On 15 January, Solana visited Tbilisi and called on Russia to honor its agreement to close its remaining military bases in Georgia. Furthermore, EC Enlargement Commissioner Günter Verheugen said at the end of January that EU would make Russia’s accession to the WTO dependent on Moscow’s ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. On 9 February, the EU formally declared that it would press Moscow on human rights and Chechnya while boosting ties with other former Soviet states. The EU began a complete review of its Russia policy in December 2003 ahead of the community’s enlargement on 1 May. The EU insists on concluding a new bilateral Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with Moscow till the end of April. The EU signed a PCA with Russia in December 1997 setting out the political, economic, and trade frameworks of its relationship for the next ten years. EU leaders are concerned over the question of whether Russia can and will be a democratic neighbor of an enlarged Europe. According to an EU study, bilateral ties are close to a post-Soviet low.

b. NATO-Ukraine.
(1) Ukrainian Foreign Minister Konstantin Gryshchenko said at the plenary meeting on the future of NATO at the Munich International Security Conference on 8 February that partners such as Ukraine were both willing and capable of reinforcing the NATO response to modern threats and challenges. Ukraine participates in the occupation of Iraq and in the peacekeeping missions in Kosovo and Liberia. Gryshchenko offered the use of Ukrainian military cargo planes for NATO shipments. (2) The NATO-Ukraine Commission met at ambassadorial level on 17 March in Brussels to discuss the status of the bilateral relations. “Allied ambassadors expressed appreciation for the Ukrainian participation in NATO-led and other peacekeeping operations and welcomed recent progress in reforming its defence sector. At the same time they stressed Ukraine must continue to implement the NATO-Ukraine Action Plan, notably in regards to independent media and this year’s presidential elections.” The ambassadors added that Ukraine’s integration into the Euro-Atlantic institutions required serious political commitment by Kiev.

c. NATO-Russia.
(1) Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told participants at the Munich International Security Conference on 8 February that Moscow was considering pulling out of the CFE Treaty. This would nullify decisions that its troops must leave Georgia and Moldova. Russia argues that under the expansion of NATO, military bases will be stationed close to its borders in the Baltic republics and Poland. (2) From 8-12 March, NATO and Russian units carried out a joint antiballistic missile exercise under the auspices of the Council NATO-Russia at the US space center in Colorado Springs. Sixty Russian and NATO experts participated in the exercise. It was the first wargame on anti-ballistic missile defense and was designed to train the compatibility of equipment and technical parameters.


1. US
a. US-Georgia. (1) US Secretary of State Colin Powell attended the inauguration of the new president of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili, on 25 January in Tbilisi. Powell told his Georgian hosts that the US would continue to stand by them as they worked “to form a new government committed to economic and political reform, the protection of human rights and the elimination of corruption.” (2) Saakashvili visited Washington, D. C. from 23-25 February and vowed not to use military force to unify his divided country. He praised the US for training Georgian troops. On 25 February, he met with US President George Bush and discussed terrorism and energy issues. President Saakashvili said he wanted to improve relations with Russia as well, as long as Moscow recognized Georgia’s national sovereignty. President Bush also urged Georgia’s powerful neighbor, the Russian Federation, to leave its bases on Georgian territory.

b. US-Russia. (1) US Secretary of State Colin Powell visited Moscow from 26-27 January and met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. He outlined US concerns about Russian democracy and the Kremlin’s increasingly autocratic demeanor. He also discussed trade issues, terrorism, and Iraq with his Russian hosts. Powell told the press that a US-Russian partnership was under construction and assured President Putin that the US was not trying to surround Russia, despite seeking temporary military bases in former Warsaw Pact countries. Russian sources said Moscow understood the need for bases in Romania and Bulgaria for fighting “terrorism”, but not in the Baltic republics and Poland. (2) Russian sources in mid-March announced a meeting between the new Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, and US Secretary of State Colin Powell, which is to take place in May. It is also quite probable that the two leading diplomats will meet at the beginning of April in Berlin on the occasion of a high-level conference on Afghanistan.

c. US-Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan. US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage visited Ukraine, Armenia, and Azerbaijan from 24-27 March. He met with senior government officials in the three countries, as well as with other political leaders and groups that promote democracy and civil society. All three countries have a democracy deficit, and their civil societies are in their early stages of development.

OSCE-Southern Caucasus. The chairman of the OSCE for 2004, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy, visited Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia from 14-17 March. He tried to encourage bilateral talks between Tbilisi and Batumi on the Adjarian issue and between Baku and Yerevan on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The latter is the main obstacle for the progress of the EU-supported TRACECA strategic infrastructure project, which aims to link Asia with Europe along the ‘Silk Highway’ of antiquity. The OSCE official met with the presidents of the three republics.

3. Council of Europe (CE)
CE-Azerbaijan. On 16 March, Azeri President Ilham Aliev freed 129 political prisoners, 26 of which were on the CE’s list of political prisoners in the country. The gesture by the young and autocratic president of Azerbaijan was encouraged by pressure applied during the visit of the OSCE chairman and foreign minister of Bulgaria as well as the president of a leading Bulgarian NGO, the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria. One of the political prisoners on the CE list was the counterpart of the Bulgarian NGO’s leader.

The big opportunities for development in the Black Sea-Caspian Sea area continue to be counter-balanced by the slow pace of democracy in the region stretching eastwards from the eastern coast of the Black Sea, by separatist tendencies, terrorism, and the geopolitical calculations of local big powers. Both the EU and NATO will have to adapt to a neighborhood in the Black Sea-Caspian Sea region that will slowly shift to stability, democracy, and better economic performance. The slow democratic progress in Russia and Ukraine is an influential factor that needs to be tackled together with the other huge problems of the Greater Middle East. Effective partnership between both countries and the EU, NATO, and the US is a long way off before it can become a vehicle for progress in the region and beyond.



Dr. Plamen Pantev, Editor–in–Chief

ISSN 1311 – 3259

Dr. Tatiana Houbenova-Delissivkova

Address: ISIS, 1618 Sofia,

Mr. Valeri Rachev, M. A.

P. O. Box 231, Bulgaria

Mr. Ivan Tsvetkov, M. A.

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Dr. Todor Tagarev

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