On 1-4 September, the Georgian Centre for the Conservation of Wildlife and the Caucasus Environmental NGO Network organised the first ever international workshop on "Wetlands Conservation in the Caucasus" in Kobuleti, a Black Sea coastal resort in Georgia, with financial and logistical support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). About 25 representatives from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, USAID, UNDP, BirdLife and Wetlands International, the organisers and the Ramsar Bureau shared information and experiences with wetland conservation and water management programmes in the Caucasus region, current and planned. A special session was devoted to country reports on progress with the implementation of current Ramsar priorities. During the final session, opportunities for regional cooperation and the inclusion of wetland conservation into the management of shared river basins and water resources was discussed in detail. As this was the very first international meeting in a region currently experiencing many ecological, socio-economical and political difficulties, the participants felt that they needed more time to develop further concrete transboundary activities. However, everybody agreed that this workshop was a very valuable initiative that should be repeated. During the workshop, the Azeri delegation announced that their parliament ratified the Ramsar Convention on 18 July 2000; thus Azerbaijan should soon become a Ramsar Contracting Party.
Tobias Salathé, the Ramsar Regional Coordinator for Europe, then traveled together with the Armenian delegation to the Javakheti Plateau Wetlands, which benefited in 1998-2000 from a Ramsar grant for preparatory activities of their declaration as the third Georgian Ramsar Site, and to Lake Arpi Reservoir Ramsar Site on the adjacent Armenian side of the steppe-covered mountains. Ramsar Standing Committee member Karén Jenderedjian, from the Ministry of Nature Protection, took Tobias then on a visit to Armenia's other Ramsar Site, Lake Sevan National Park, covering the entire lake catchment basin of 489,100ha extent! In October 2000, a second wetland management training course will be held for National Park staff in the "Poets' house" at the lake shore, funded through the Ramsar Bureau by the Swiss Development Cooperation. At the Ministry in Yerevan new contacts were established and progress of work with the current Ramsar Small Grants Fund project on the "Ecological and economical valuation of Armenian wetlands as a step towards the elaboration of a National Wetlands Policy" was reviewed. A rapid visit of the extensive reedbeds in the Araks valley at the Turkish border next to the pilgrims' church Khor Virab, threatened by drainage through a planned project for agricultural improvement (to be funded by the World Bank), concluded the short visit of a country in dire needs for international support for wetland conservation and wise use.