Margareta Cederfelt, President, OSCE PA
It is my great pleasure and honor to be here in Ashgabat and open this high-level event that was put together by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly jointly with the Parliament of Turkmenistan in the framework of the Call for Action-Helsinki +50 Initiative. This is the first Call for Action in-person event in a Central Asian country which drew a lot of attention from the OSCE region.
Before we start, I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the host country for hosting this impressive event that gathered Members of Parliaments, representatives of Academia, government officials and representatives of the diplomatic corps and media. I am very pleased that despite challenging times that we are all going through and busy schedules, many of us were able to join this Seminar in person today. Our hard work and meticulous planning have undoubtedly paid off, and we are privileged to be here today to discuss important topics related to the role of neutral states in a polarized world. This event serves as a testament to the power of collaboration, bringing together individuals from various parts of the OSCE region to exchange ideas and views. It provides us with a unique opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges that Central Asia countries are facing.
I would like to welcome you all to the Central Asia Regional Seminar dedicated to the topic of “The Role of Neutral States in Strengthening Security, Stability and Dialogue in the OSCE Area”.
As we gather here today, it is critical to acknowledge that neutrality is vital to fostering peaceful relationships between individuals and countries. It enables us to approach complex issues with an open mind, identify areas of common ground, and achieve mutually beneficial solutions.
In a world that is becoming increasingly polarized, it is essential that we embrace the principles of neutrality and show respect for each other’s opinions, values, and cultural differences. This event presents us with a unique chance to strengthen our bonds of friendship, promote mutual understanding, and work towards a brighter, more peaceful future.
As a politician, I understand the challenges that come with trying to remain a neutral country during times of war. Inevitably, the pressures of war can make it incredibly difficult to remain impartial and detached from the conflict. Neutrality often requires a country to maintain a careful balance in their diplomatic relations with all sides, which can be a complex and delicate task. This requires a high level of political savvy, and even the slightest misstep can have significant consequences for a neutral country.
Staying neutral in times of the war in Ukraine is a daunting task, fraught with challenges and potential risks. However, it is an essential principle of diplomacy and peace. It requires a steadfast commitment to impartiality and a deep understanding of the complexities of war and conflict.
As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Helsinki final Act in 2025, I believe it is more critical than ever to highlight the importance of a neutral space in international relations. In a world that is becoming increasingly polarized, it is crucial to remember that diplomacy and cooperation are the keys to resolving conflicts and promoting peace.
I hope that by the time we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Helsinki final Act in 2025, the war in Ukraine will be over, and we can focus on rebuilding a new security architecture that provides the foundation for a stable system of international relations. I believe it will be a high time when the role of neutral countries becomes crucial in reducing confrontation and moving towards a more cooperative set of relations.
Neutral countries can provide a unique perspective and act as a mediator between conflicting parties, helping to resolve disputes and promote peace. As we face urgent global challenges such as proxy wars, climate change, pandemics, transnational threats and poverty, it is essential that we work together to find solutions and address these issues.
Therefore, focusing on building bridges rather than walls and striving towards a future where peace and prosperity are accessible to all should be a priority.
Once again, I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the leadership of Turkmenistan for their gracious hospitality and for making this event possible. Today we will have an outstanding high-level panel of experts and practitioners who would take stock of the concept of neutrality and guide us through this topic. I am looking forward to fruitful discussions. Thank you.
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As this Seminar is coming to an end, I would like to express my deep appreciation for the active engagement of all the participants in our debate in the two sessions. The ideas and insights shared during this event have been thought-provoking, and have given us new perspectives on the importance of neutral spaces and the role of neutral countries in today’s world.
Today with the help of our excellent panelists we have had the opportunity to examine the various challenges that come with maintaining a neutral stance. It is particularly evident in the face of ongoing war of aggression in Ukraine and the unstable political situation in neighboring Afghanistan. As we learned today These issues have a significant impact on the Central Asian region, and require us to be proactive in our efforts to promote peace, stability and cooperation.
In light of these challenges, it is clear that neutral countries have a critical role to play in reducing confrontation and fostering more cooperative relationships. They can offer a platform for dialogue for the conflicting sides and become mediators. Their role is particularly important in the face of urgent global challenges, such as climate change, which require collective action and cooperation.
We have heard today about different models of neutrality from our Swiss, Austrian and Turkmen colleagues. They shared a unique perspective on neutrality, owing to their history and location at the crossroads of several significant geopolitical and economic forces. The viewpoints and contributions emanating from Central Asian region are indispensable in shaping our collective understanding of this vital topic.
As we have heard here today, Central Asian countries are in dire need of greater regional connectivity to tackle various challenges and crises. The benefits of increased connectivity are immense, ranging from economic growth to social development and regional stability. By investing in physical and digital infrastructure, we can create new avenues for trade, investment, and collaboration, which can help unlock the vast potential of this incredible region.
But connectivity is not just about physical infrastructure; it is also about people as highlighted this year by the OSCE Chairpersonship. By promoting greater people-to-people contacts and exchanges, we can create deeper understanding and appreciation of each other’s cultures, traditions, and ways of life. This can help contribute to confidence building, which in turn can result to greater regional stability and prosperity.
However, we must also recognize that connectivity presents new challenges, particularly in the areas of security and governance. As we work to enhance connectivity in the region, we must ensure that we are doing so in a way that is sustainable, inclusive, and respectful of the needs and interests of all stakeholders. This will require greater coordination and collaboration between governments, civil society organizations, and the private sector. We must be willing to engage in open and honest dialogue, listen to each other’s concerns and perspectives, and work together to find solutions that are mutually beneficial.
As we look to the future, I am confident that increased regional connectivity will play a critical role in promoting greater stability, prosperity, and cooperation not only in Central Asia but in the whole OSCE area.
I believe that the enthusiasm and commitment demonstrated by our Central Asian partners during this event bear witness to their dedication to promoting peace, stability, and cooperation in the international arena. Their inputs have been pivotal in broadening our perspectives of the challenges and opportunities inherent in maintaining a neutral stance. I anticipate further engagement in the future and working together to make significant progress towards a more peaceful and stable world.
I believe that our discussions have shed light on some of the key ways that neutral countries can contribute to building a more stable and peaceful world. It is my hope that we can continue engaging in such discussions in the future through the OSCE PA’s Call for Action – Helsinki +50 Initiative and at our statutory meetings and that we can work together towards a future that is defined by greater understanding, cooperation, and respect.
Once again, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the host country and particularly thank Madam Chairperson (Ms. Gulmanova) for your valuable input and time to be here with us today. Let me also thank everyone who has been involved in the organization of this event. A special thanks goes to Ambassador Zannier and our interpreters without whom we would not be able to understand each other and commend the input of all the participants. Your insights and perspectives have been invaluable, and I look forward to continuing this important debate in future. I also look forward to seeing many of you at the Annual Session in Vancouver where I will conclude my Presidency as the terms come to end. Thank you.
[These were the opening and closing remarks of Margareta Cederfelt, President, OSCE PA, at the conference “The role of neutral states in strengthening security, stability and dialogue in the OSCE Area,” organized jointly by Turkmenistan and OSCE PA on 16 May 2023 in Ashgabat.] /// nCa, 17 May 2023