The United Nations Millennium Summit offers leaders from the Caucasus and Central Asia opportunities for important discussions on a variety of regional issues, including the projected Trans-Caspian pipeline, and peace prospects in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan were expected to join more than 150 other heads of state or government for the summit, which begins September 6. Kyrgyzstan planned to be represented by its foreign minister, Muratbek Imanaliev. Turkmenistan's leader, Saparmurat Niyazov, announced that he would not travel to New York.
The summit was convened to address global issues, including easing conditions of abject poverty faced by billions of people, strengthening UN peace-keeping operations, and dealing more effectively with the world's environmental problems. The conference, originally proposed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in 1997, has the theme, "The United Nations in the 21st Century."
The summit will also be the scene of up to 700 bilateral meetings, including one between President Robert Kocharian of Armenia and his Azerbaijani counterpart Heidar Aliev. The two leaders will seek to refine the dialogue on the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, according to one official involved in the planning. In two meetings over the summer, the two presidents sought to establish negotiating parameters. The meetings have provided renewed momentum for the Karabakh talks, which had stalled following the October 1999 assassinations in the Armenian parliament. [For additional information see the Eurasia Insight archives].
Before departing for the summit, Aliev complained that unspecified forces were impeding progress in the Karabakh peace process. "You try to solve one problem, they try to hinder you. You try to solve another problem, they again try to hinder you," Aliev said during an interview broadcast by the ANS television station on September 4. "There are lots of forces that are not interested in a solution."
Aliev said that as part of a lasting peace deal his government will insist on the return of all Azerbaijani territory occupied by Armenian forces during the Karabakh conflict. In addition, Aliev indicated that he would seek to cement support for the proposed Baku-Ceyhan pipeline.
Despite an ongoing Islamic insurgency in Central Asia, no bilateral meetings were scheduled among the presidents of republics in the region. In August, the leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan met in an emergency summit in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek to discuss stepped-up cooperation to repulse recent attacks by Islamic insurgents. [For additional information see the Eurasia Insight archive]. A Central Asian diplomat in New York suggested that summit reduced the likelihood of a similar meeting in New York.
Nevertheless, Central Asian leaders, in particular, Uzbek President Islam Karimov, are likely to press for greater UN involvement in regional stabilization efforts. Central Asian leaders have identified Afghanistan as the chief source of regional instability. At the Bishkek summit, Karimov said the conflict in Afghanistan deserved the urgent attention of the UN Security Council. "If the Afghan problem had been treated in the same way as that of Kosovo or Bosnia, I am convinced