The Permanent Neutrality of Turkmenistan
On the 20th anniversary of the international community’s recognition of the country’s neutral status, Ambassador of Turkmenistan Mr Yazmurad Seryaev discusses the effective value of understanding and partnership
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the international community’s recognition of the legal status of the permanent neutrality of Turkmenistan in accordance with the United Nations General Assembly Resolution. In celebration of this landmark event, 2015 has been declared the Year of Neutrality and Peace in Turkmenistan.
For the first time in the history of the UN General Assembly, the adoption of the Special Resolution on 12 December 1995 entitled ‘On the Permanent Neutrality of Turkmenistan’ became a recognition of the peaceful foreign policy of our country and approval of the authoritative role of Turkmenistan as a state that can make a worthy contribution to the peaceful development of international relations, ensuring universal security and steady progress. The Turkmen neutrality model assumes that contemporary international law is the law of peace, and that a neutral state must constantly adhere to its status not only in wartime, but also in peacetime. As a new phenomenon in international legal practice, Turkmen neutrality has become the basis of a new concept of cooperation and achieving world peace.
Furthermore, Turkmenistan’s 20 years of permanent neutrality has contributed to international security in the region and the rest of the world, as well as being an effective foreign policy model for the development of a successful and independent state.
Recognition of Turkmenistan’s permanent neutrality has been a novelty in the history of world politics. In 1995, 185 UN member states voted unanimously for its adoption in the UN General Assembly. Today, Turkmenistan is the only state that has been recognised as having a status of permanent neutrality by the UN, and this major international organisation has become the guarantor of the country’s status.
President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov described the importance of this recognition of our country’s neutral status in the context of the country’s foreign policy strategy, stating: “Without exaggeration, it is a historical event which became a reference point for our entire follow-up on the international scene, defined the principles of relations with other nations and states.”
The status of Turkmenistan’s permanent neutrality is based on strict and absolute adherence to the letter and spirit of the Constitution, UN Charter and international obligations. It has gained credibility and trust among other states and will create favourable external conditions for internal stability and sustainable development.
It is highly significant that Turkmenistan voluntarily accepted the status of permanent neutrality (and not under the pressure of external factors) but as a result of a conviction that such status is key to the country’s independence and sovereign development. It is this neutrality that had enabled Turkmenistan to select the most productive areas of cooperation, forming a modern security system, and mechanisms for peaceful, political solutions to regional and international conflicts, all aiding risk and threat prevention.
Firstly, we should note that the identity of the permanent neutrality of Turkmenistan is not bound up with direct armed conflicts and problems. Secondly, Turkmenistan’s permanent neutrality status emerged after the collapse of the huge geopolitical body that was the USSR. Thirdly, the status of permanent neutral state was first given to Turkmenistan as a result of a UN resolution, one of the globe’s most prestigious international organisations.
By recognising and supporting Turkmenistan’s status of permanent neutrality – and urging UN member states to respect and support this status along with the country’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity – the UN General Assembly also guarantees that status.
Since the legalisation of Turkmenistan’s permanent neutrality took place, the country has reached some significant milestones. Turkmenistan has established diplomatic relations with 134 countries, and has become a full member of 44 international, multilateral and regional organisations, including the UN and its specialised agencies, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and others. It is important to note that when deciding to join to any union of states as a full member, Turkmenistan (taking into account its permanent neutrality status) can make the appropriate reservations about procedures when participating in certain activities. If these international organisations provide or accept a particular form of membership with limited rights, then Turkmenistan could participate using the status of associate member. Currently Turkmenistan has such status with the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Economic Cooperation Organisation.
Enshrined by the special UN General Assembly Resolution that has attained general recognition of the international community, Turkmenistan’s neutral status allows our country to make a positive contribution to political processes in the region, also strengthening our position and peace-making activities there. Turkmenistan offers neutral space for political meetings and conferences that require a subtle political approach. For example, in the past the capital Ashgabat hosted several rounds of inter-Tajik and inter-Afghan talks. The results had important implications for resolution of the sub-national conflict in Tajikistan, and the meeting on Afghanistan at the time helped to find common points between the opposing sides.
The status of neutrality also contributes to Turkmenistan’s economic development, and the transformation of our country into one of the most active political players in the region, strengthening security and stability in Central Asia and the Caspian Basin.
With tremendous energy potential, our country continues to expand international cooperation in this important strategic area. In this context, Turkmenistan’s initiative regarding energy security involves creating an international legal mechanism governing the reliable and stable transit of energy resources. Supported by the international community, this initiative has been specifically promoted by Turkmenistan in all relevant international arenas since its initiation in 2007. Accordingly, in 2008 the UN General Assembly adopted an appropriate resolution, and in 2009, the high-level international conference ‘Reliable and Stable Transit of Energy and its Role in Ensuring Sustainable Development and International Cooperation’ took place in Ashgabat. As a logical continuation of this process, the UN General Assembly adopted a further resolution on 17 May 2013 putting Turkmenistan’s initiative into practice. Regarding this document, the UN Secretary General asked for the opinions of member states and UN specialised organisations on the matter of reliable and stable transit of energy, preparing a report based on their findings for the UN General Assembly. In December 2014, the first meeting ensuring the reliable and stable transit of energy to world markets took place in Ashgabat.
We should also note that creating a modern transport and communications system is one of Turkmenistan’s state policy priorities that is pursued by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. Growth and the development of international trade is essentially reflected in transport systems, and accordingly Turkmenistan has become of utmost importance as a bridge between European and Asian transport networks.
Furthermore, Turkmenistan has nominated constructive proposals in transport and transit fields, which have been widely supported by the international community. This was acknowledged with the adoption of a UN General Assembly resolution on ‘The role of transport and transit corridors to ensure international cooperation for sustainable development’ on 19 December 2014. Undoubtedly, the adoption of this resolution is the logical continuation of neutral Turkmenistan’s tremendous work to create the conditions to form international transport and transit corridors.
Further evidence of our country’s vigorous activities in multilateral arenas in recent years is its participation with UN elected bodies. Turkmenistan has been thrice elected as Vice-Chair of the UN General Assembly at the 62nd, 64th and 68th sessions, and as a member of the UN General Committee has been closely involved in the development and approval of the agenda of those sessions.
In 2012, for the first time Turkmenistan was elected to one of the main UN Councils, the Economic and Social Council, for the period 2013-15. This was undoubtedly in recognition of the country’s contribution to seeking out and implementing solutions to economic and social development global issues.
Turkmenistan’s election to UNESCO’s Executive Committee for the period of 2013-17 was the result of widespread social reforms undertaken by the country, as well as Turkmenistan’s state policy of broad international cooperation, focusing on partnerships in humanitarian and cultural arenas.
Turkmenistan firmly supports political and diplomatic methods of settling internal and interstate conflicts. As alternatives to the military approach, political and diplomatic methods can serve as the foundation for durable solutions and can offer the keys to sustainable peace and stability. Accordingly, Turkmenistan’s leader Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov initiated the adoption of the UN Declaration prioritising political and diplomatic means in solving international issues, which offers a kind of universal guide to resolving international problems with the appropriate tools.
Today, the world community is increasingly holding up neutral Turkmenistan as a foreign policy resource and a political-diplomatic tool to achieve peace, security and sustainable development. Therefore, the principal component of the country’s foreign policy – its permanent neutrality – remains unchanged, in pursuit of cooperation in the name of peace and progress.
Turkmenistan’s history of success and achievement in domestic and foreign policy is a clear indication that the country’s neutrality is not only a strong pillar of its independence and sovereign foreign policy, but also a platform for the promotion of initiatives and proposals aimed at promoting the development of global political, economic, cultural and humanitarian cooperation.
Today, Turkmenistan’s neutral status determines the basic characteristics of the country’s activities in implementing international practices in the pursuit of solving problems in world politics. In summary, we should highlight the positive effects of Turkmenistan’s efficiency in advancing its objectives and achieving results, while stabilising its foreign policy, not to mention the credibility of the country and the strength of its position on the world stage.
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