The Messenger, Georgia
June 3 2005

CIS leaders in Tbilisi but not optimistic

Ukrainian PM thanks Georgia for paving the way for Orange Revolution
By Keti Sikharulidze

On the eve of the CIS conference in Tbilisi on Friday, leaders from
organization's member states have mixed feeling about the future of
the alliance.

Political leaders from throughout the former Soviet Union arrived in
Tbilisi on Wednesday and Thursday in preparation for the June 3 CIS
Summit. Nine countries reportedly will send representatives to the
meeting and 34 documents are on the agenda, although Georgia will
participate in just nine of those discussions.

On Thursday the Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko arrived and
was met personally by President Mikheil Saakashvili. At the airport,
she thanked the Georgian people, the president and the media for their
support during the revolution. "I cannot imagine the Orange Revolution
without Georgia," she said before leaving with the president for a
trip to the Tsinandali Wine Factory in Kakheti.

Timoshenko is the only summit guest the president has met at the
airport personally, and he said the attention was protocol and also
a tribute to their countries' friendship.

"She promised to visit Georgia first as the PM, then I though she
was joking, but as I see she kept her word and visited Georgia,"
said Saakashvili. The Ukrainian prime minister postponed her maiden
trip to Moscow on April 15-16 for unclear reasons though it was
speculated the Russian prosecutor had threatened the prime minister,
who is wanted by Russian law enforcement.

Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Moldova and Uzbekistan all sent representatives
as well.

The Prime Minister of Tajikistan Akil Akilov expressed optimism about
the upcoming meeting. According to him, countries should live with
the hope that everything will be all right, something that included
the cooperation of states. "We should cooperate with each other for
the welfare of our people," he said.

Other representatives were more pessimistic. "It is too hard to
speak about big results in economical cooperation [when] in a number
of countries there are different positions," the Prime Minister of
Moldova Vasile Tarlev told journalists. "But to just criticize or
not to meet is not the best decision. [Since] there is no progress
in CIS space, such summits are necessary."

Speaker of Parliament Nino Burjanadze agreed with Tarlev. "I have never
expressed optimism regarding the CIS Summits, as the best decisions
were too often left on paper," she said. "Or there were cases, when
issues that needed to be discussed were not discussed or were simply
ignored, which caused the weakening of this organization." She added
that while there might be some economic agreements during the meetings,
she believes the organization's days are numbered.

Burjanadze also met with another participant of the CIS Summit,
the Prime Minister of Armenia Andranik Markarian. The two reportedly
discussed important issues for both countries.

The main issue of the negotiations were the living conditions of
residents of Armenians living in Akhalkalaki, the majority of whom rely
on a Russian military base for jobs and work. According to Burjanadze,
the government intends to introduce social and economic projects in
the region.

"We had very constructive negotiations with Markarian regarding this
issue. I explained to him that the situation in Samtkhe-Javakheti
region was much different from the situation in other regions in the
rest of Georgia, but I told him about the plans we intend to develop
in the region," Burjanadze told journalists after the meeting.

Commenting on the bases Markarian clearly noted that he saw no problem
concerning them. "All issues regarding bases were already solved by
the Georgian side," he said.

According to Burjanadze, they also discussed the building of a new
high-voltage line between Georgia and Armenia.

"We agree and now the working groups will begin implementing the
project," Armenian PM Andranik Markarian said. "The line is to be
built later this year and will allow Georgia to regularly receive
additional electricity from Armenia," he added.

The speaker raised the issue regarding the demilitarization of
Russian-Georgian boarder, which Burjanadze said affects both Georgia
and Armenia. "This issue can be used by other forces to [create]
a tense situation between our two countries," said Burjanadze.

They also discussed the issue of building a railway linking Russia,
Georgia and Armenia via Abkhazia. Burjanadze thinks it possible to
rehabilitate this line, under a guarantee to simultaneously implement
the repatriation of IDPs to Abkhazia.

Markarian raised the problem of protecting Armenian churches in
Georgia. It is has been widely reported that there is controversy
over churches which are currently Georgian Orthodox but Armenia
claims were originally Armenian Apostolic. According to Burjanadze,
the issue will be difficult to resolve without the help of historians.