Cablegate: Black Sea States to Create Network to Combat Aids

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Action Request -- See para 7.

2. Summary: The Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), in
cooperation with UN agencies, wants to establish a regional
network to address the growing risk of an AIDS outbreak in
the Black Sea region. The concept has been endorsed by BSEC
Foreign Ministers; BSEC hopes the network will help focus
attention by the individual national governments and
galvanize regional information-sharing and cooperation. BSEC
and UN representatives will meet in March to put the project
in motion. They are eager for U.S. participation in that
meeting and in the ongoing work of the network. End Summary.

3. AIDS Threat: BSEC and local UN officials are
increasingly concerned about growing warning signs of an
impending AIDS outbreak in the region. Ankara-based UNICEF
coordinator Mehmet Kontas, the chief UN official working on
the network, said that national governments are aware of the
risks but their responses have been generally poor. He said
Turkey, for example, continues to stand by official reports
that AIDS cases have remained flat at about 1400 in recent
years, when NGOs and the UN think that the number is much
larger and poised to increase more. He pointed out that
there are 20,000 unregistered sex workers in Istanbul alone
) many of whom come from Russian, Ukraine and Moldova, where
higher infection rates prevail ) and Turkey is an important
corridor for illegal immigration, and trafficking in drugs
and humans. The police reported the arrest of 13,335
criminals last year involved in smuggling/trafficking
operations. 34,072 persons were detained in connection with
human trafficking.

4. BSEC Initiative: The BSEC is a relatively new regional
organization comprised of 11 countries in the extended Black
Sea region (Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia,
Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine). It
includes 330 million people and several countries at risk of
an AIDS epidemic. Although many of the member government
have been slow to act against AIDS, BSEC foreign ministers
endorsed a proposal to establish a regional network to
address the threat. BSEC is working closely with UN
officials, who will provide technical expertise for the

5. The objective is to create a Network of Liaison Experts
from the BSEC Member States, supported by experts from
relevant UN agencies. The network hopes to foster
cooperation on surveillance, testing and treatment, awareness
raising and capacity building. The first meeting will be
help in March in Istanbul. BSEC member representatives will
make presentations about the extent of AIDS in their
countries and national efforts to address the problem. BSEC
expects that initial costs to establish the network will be
about USD 15,000. (Note: BSEC is not asking for U.S.
financial support.)

6. We believe this is a serious and worthy undertaking.
BSEC is an underutilized regional organization. It provides
an important institutional framework to quickly establish the
network, and it can muster support at the highest level in
the member governments. The enthusiastic support and
technical expertise of the UN significantly improves the
prospect that the network could prove an important tool in
the fight against the AIDS pandemic in the region.

7. Action Request: This is an important initiative for this
region. BSEC provides a unique institutional capability to
bring together the greater Black Sea states to help them
address what could be a very serious AIDS outbreak in just a
few years. We think this initiative is especially important
for Turkey, which continues to lowball the incidence of AIDS
cases and ignore the very real threat that AIDS could break
out here. We support this initiative and urge Washington to
do so, as well. BSEC and the UN recognize the leading role
of the U.S. in combating the spread of AIDS and they are
eager for U.S. representatives to show their support for the
initiative and lend their experience and technical expertise.
BSEC would like the U.S. to make a presentation at the
preliminary meeting of the network in March. We recommend
that OES and S/GAC identify a speaker or perhaps a small
delegation to attend the meeting of experts in March. Post
will transmit more details as they become available.

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