Kazakhstan calls for OSCE conflict prevention mechanism

Kazakhstan calls for OSCE conflict prevention mechanismASTANA – Halfway through Kazakhstan’s chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE Chairman-in-Office, State Secretary and Kazakhstan Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev talked to New Europe  correspondent Kulpash Konyrova about the situation in Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan as well as the challenges the organization is facing.

Half of Kazakhstan’s OSCE chairmanship term is over. What important tasks has Kazakhstan completed, and what does it plan to do in the remaining time as the OSCE Chair?

Yes, the first half-term of our leadership of the big OSCE “family” is over. As we ran for OSCE chairmanship and as we took the post over at the beginning of this year, we were morally ready for the most unexpected turns of events clearly committing ourselves to a balanced, impartial and the most effective response to any incident or crisis within the space of our organization.

According to the evaluations of our partners, Kazakhstan’s chairmanship has shown a confident and efficient style of work as a “political manager” of the organization. Debates have revived, and new ideas and approaches to reinforcing its work have appeared in the organization. In our work, since day one, we have focused our attention on prevention of new dividing lines in the OSCE space, on development of an atmosphere of confidence in the interests of all, and on expansion and strengthening of a consensus ground with respect to the underlying principles of the organization’s development. Over the past six months, closely collaborating with all of the OSCE member states and institutions, we have done a lot of work, including in the framework of the “Corfu process” – a new comprehensive dialogue on the future of Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security on an OSCE platform.

As an OSCE chair, our priority is the settlement of the protracted conflicts. We hope to give a certain impetus to the difficult process of resolving the longstanding problems.

Each and every member nation is concerned about the extremely difficult situation in Afghanistan. That country currently presents all of the modern challenges in the three security dimensions of the OSCE: illegal drugs and arms trafficking, organized crime, and terrorism and religious extremism.

After almost nine years of hostilities, it is becoming more and more obvious that stability in Afghanistan cannot be achieved through military actions alone. This is why, as a Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE, Kazakhstan is focusing its attention on the humanitarian component, on the development and implementation of various projects to assist Afghanistan.

During my visit to Kabul on May 17, I have discussed with the Afghan government the initiatives on reinforcing its borders with the Central Asian states, on strengthening the potential of the law-enforcement agencies, and on cooperation in combating drug trafficking. This is in the interests of the entire organization, as 43 out of the 56 member states are already involved in the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

I plan to visit Afghanistan again in the second half of July to participate in an international ministerial conference on the problems of that country. I hope that the forthcoming on July 16 and 17 informal meeting of the OSCE foreign ministers in Almaty will review the preliminary results and will agree on the time and venue of a summit.

How do you evaluate the results of the Kyrgyzstan referendum?

As the OSCE chair, Kazakhstan welcomed the successful completion of the national referendum in Kyrgyzstan that has became an important step to political stability, reinstatement of the constitutional order, and legitimacy of the current authorities.

The OSCE is sincerely interested in seeing the situation in Kyrgyzstan finally returning to a constructive routine, and in this connection we call upon the member states and the international agencies to develop, as soon as possible, a plan of a large-scale aid to that country. On the whole, as close neighbors, it was with great worry and anguish that we took the events of the past months in Kyrgyzstan that have led to hundreds of deaths and to thousands of wounded and refugees.

Providing all possible help from the first days of the crisis, Kazakhstan is sincerely interested in a speedy resumption of an atmosphere of confidence and tolerance in the country and is committed, both on a bilateral basis and as an OSCE Chairman-in-Office, to further provision of necessary aid to end this difficult crisis for the brotherly people of Kyrgyzstan.

At the current stage, it is important to fully, effectively and timely implement the framework plan developed by OSCE, UN and EU that identified four priority areas for help: public safety, humanitarian aid, regional security, and post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation.

It is at this particular time that it is very important that the world community do with a good grace and support the Kyrgyz government’s capacity to administer the law and to secure a process of national reconciliation. The OSCE is ready to provide a worthy contribution to this mission. For this purpose, we propose to considerably expand the OSCE centre in Bishkek as well as its offices in the regions of Kyrgyzstan.

As an OSCE Chair, is Kazakhstan going to propose to the organization to develop crisis response mechanisms to prevent situations similar to what happened in Kyrgyzstan?

One of the OSCE mandates is early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation. Unfortunately, as we can see, the OSCE is sometimes unable to achieve tangible results, as it is a consultative body and, unlike the UN, it has not real means of responding to such situations (deployment of military contingents, imposition of sanctions). As you know, all decisions at the OSCE are made on a consensus basis, and such an approach considerably complicates a speedy resolution of conflict situations, transforming itself into a lengthy process.

The South Caucasus crisis of August 2008 had demonstrated a real danger of unfreezing and escalating of conflicts and had seriously challenged the OSCE’s conflict preventing potential. The sobering experience received by the organization lately has helped understand the necessity of an urgent revision of the methods used to fulfill the OSCE’s main international mandate. In this connection, the OSCE has intensified the discussions on creation of an OSCE conflict prevention mechanism providing for a wide range of instruments and channels to respond to possible crisis situations. Common standards and principles should be used in the development of a crisis prevention mechanism. I believe that the main means of early recognition of conflicts should be engaged consultations and an open exchange of opinions on all issues of concern for the member states.

At present, our main focus in the “Kyrgyz issue” is on coordination of efforts of the organizations and countries concerned to assist in the social-economic and constitutional recovery of the neighboring country. In particular, we welcome the idea of a special high-level international donor conference on Kyrgyzstan. If Kyrgyzstan so requests, Kazakhstan is prepared to provide a “ground” in Almaty for organization of such a forum under the auspices of UN and OSCE.

As is known, the ministers from the 56 OSCE member states have confirmed their participation in the informal meeting in Almaty that should decide on the time, venue and the agenda for an OSCE summit in Astana. What is the probability of it happening this year?

We are in active preparation for the informal meeting of the OSCE foreign ministers in Almaty on July 16 and 17, which is one of the main events of our chairmanship. During the meetings in Almaty, we plan to discuss the outstanding items on the general agenda of the OSCE in the context of the Leader of the Nations’ proposal to call a summit on Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security in the nearest years. We have been working consistently and diligently with the OSCE partners to develop a most appropriate agenda for the summit.

Among its main items we see the following: confirmation at the highest level of all of the earlier obligations undertaken within the OSCE framework; the future of Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security; strategic goals in arms control and in military confidence-building measures; responses to new challenging and threats; Afghanistan issues; situation in Central Asia, in particular, in Kyrgyzstan; an adapted strategy for the OSCE second basket; and tolerance.

I believe that the launching by our leaders at the Astana summit of a veritable “reloading” of the geopolitical relations in the huge zone of responsibility of the OSCE will effectively add to the similar processes of “reloading” that we have been seeing both in bilateral relations, USA and Russia being a vivid example, and in the global and regional multilateral political and economic processes. Here I mean, first of all, the G20, the European Union, NATO, and the Customs Union of Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus.

In addition, to develop synergies of efforts of the international security institutes, we plan to hold an informal meeting of five regional organizations – OSCE, NATO, EU, CIS, and CSTO. This event will take place in the framework of the informal OSCE ministerial meeting in Almaty.

On the whole, I believe that there is a growing understanding within the OSCE that further delays of the summit can be detrimental. A loss of another year could mean missing on the current relatively favorable geopolitical conditions for reinforcing the organization itself and for strengthening security and cooperation over an expanse from Vancouver to Vladivostok.

Kanat Saudabayev is the Foreign Minister of  Kazakhstan