A great concept that can go places – but not immediately. — We are talking of the pioneering conference that took place in Ashgabat on 16 May 2023.
It was a joint undertaking of Turkmenistan and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. The theme of the conference was: “The role of neutral states in strengthening security, stability and dialogue in the OSCE Area.”
Ms. Dunyagozel Gulmanova, the chairperson of the Mejlis (Parliament) of Turkmenistan and Ms. Margareta Cederfelt, the president of the OSCE PA, jointly chaired the inaugural session and made the opening remarks.
The keynote speaker in the inaugural session was Ambassador John MacGregor, the head of the OSCE Centre in Ashgabat.
There were two thematic sessions:
- Importance of neutral space in a polarized geopolitical context: the role of OSCE in Central Asian countries
- The role of Central Asian countries in helping overcome crisis of multilateralism and the risk of protracted stalemate in the OSCE
Both of these sub-themes of the conference were clearly designed to go in a certain direction. Hopefully, the outcomes of the conference would contribute toward the main theme of the conference.
* * *
Expecting the neutral states to help in strengthening security, stability and dialogue in the OSCE Area is laudable and doable.
However, the question is – are we looking for those neutral states within the OSCE space or the world at large?
Here are the neutral states in the OSCE space:
- Turkmenistan – proclaimed neutrality in 1995, recognized by the UN
- Mongolia – announced neutrality unexpectedly during a speech at the UN in 2015
- Serbia – adopted armed neutrality in 2007
- Uzbekistan – neutrality coded in law in 2012
- Austria – neutrality incorporated into the constitution in 1955
We are clearly in short supply of the decisively neutral countries.
The traditionally neutral stance of many countries has been shaken by the Russia-Ukraine situation. The widely recognized neutrality of Switzerland, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Moldova, and Singapore is jeopardized by their participation in the sanctions against Russia. This is just one way of looking at the things. There could be several more.
* * *
The conference itself has launched a noble cause – encouraging the neutral countries to help build security, stability and dialogue in the OSCE space.
A viable way to do so was suggested by the chairperson of the parliament of Turkmenistan, Ms. Dunyagozel Gulmanova. She said in her opening remarks that Turkmenistan will use the preventive diplomacy as a mechanism for peace in the world.
This is perhaps the most direct way to combine the influence of the neutral states for a common cause. The UNRCCA (UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia) in Ashgabat is a well-established institution, ready for this role.
By entrusting the UNRCCA with this honourable task, it would be possible to institutionalize the concept of this conference.
* * *
We are publishing some of the speeches made during the conference as separate op-ed pieces because their importance goes beyond just this event. The ideas expressed by the speakers need to be embedded into the future work in this area.
Turkmenistan conference considers the role of neutral states in strengthening security
“Neutral countries can provide a unique perspective and act as a mediator between conflicting parties”, Margareta Cederfelt, President, OSCE PA
“The role of neutral states in strengthening security, stability and dialogue in the OSCE Area”, Ambassador John MacGregor, Head of OSCE Centre in Ashgabat
“Maintaining neutrality has helped facilitate dialogue and support conflict resolution throughout history”, Pia Kauma, Vice-President of the OSCE PA, Special Representative on Central Asia
“It is important to build trust between states, to seek common ground”, Askar Shakirov, Vice President of OSCE PA (Kazakhstan)
“Russia highly appreciates the neutral status of Turkmenistan”, Alexander Volgarev, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the OSCE
“The Institution of Neutrality: Lessons from History in the Context of the New Century”, Dr.Begench Karayev, Senior Lecturer, Institute of International relations of MFA Turkmenistan
/// nCa, 17 May 2023
Here are some pictures from the event: