From: Alison Mutler, Associated Press
Published June 6, 2006 12:00 AM

Black Sea Summit Opens in Romanian Capital

BUCHAREST, Romania — Leaders of Black Sea countries met on Monday for a summit aimed at combatting the region's drug- and people-smuggling networks, finding ways of tackling pollution and discussing alternative energy routes.


The Black Sea region faces "new threats caused by criminality and terrorism, and insecurity caused by the security of energy (supplies), and we are called to manage this and improve it," said Romanian President Traian Basescu. "We know our problems ... they are problems inherited from a difficult past but there is the real potential for development."


The main topics on the summit's agenda would be environment protection, regional cooperation, joint energy projects, combatting cross-border crime and improving infrastructure.


"Putting the Black Sea on the map is a challenge in itself," Romanian Foreign Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu said in opening the summit.


Among those attending were Presidents Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine, Mikhail Saakashvili of Georgia, Robert Kocharian of Armenia, Vladimir Voronin of Moldova and Ilham Aliev of Azerbaijan, as well as officials from Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece and Lithuania.


Top officials from NATO, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the United Nations and the Council of Europe were also attending the summit.


Russia declined to send a high-level official to the summit but requested observer status. In his speech, Basescu called on Russia to take part in the region's future development.


"Romania considers that a regional cooperation process cannot take place without Russia," he said, pointing to the "rich social, political and economic resources," that Russia has. Russia was represented at the summit by its ambassador to Romania, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Corina Vintan said.


Kocharian and Aliev were expected to discuss the status of Nagorno-Karabakh on the sidelines of the summit. Talks between the two leaders in France in February ended in failure, despite international mediators' efforts to push the leaders to resolve the enclave's status.


Aliev's spokesman, Novruz Mammadov, told Azerbaijani state television OTV Sunday that a settlement for Nagorno-Karabakh could only occur "within the framework of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity and according to the norms of international law," something he said Armenia did not agree with. He added that talks were difficult, but "there are hopes that certain steps forward will be taken."


Nagorno-Karabakh is inside Azerbaijan but populated mostly by ethnic Armenians, who have run it since an uneasy 1994 cease-fire ended six years of full-scale war. Sporadic border clashes have grown more frequent since the breakdown of talks. The lack of resolution has hindered development throughout the strategic region.


On Sunday, Romanian President Traian Basescu met separately with Kocharian and Aliev to discuss ways to reach a settlement for Nagorno-Karabakh, Basescu's office said in a statement.


Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Ukraine, Russia and Georgia directly border the Black Sea, which is one of the world's most polluted seas. Its only outlet is via Turkey's Bosphorus Straits.


Source: Associated Press


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