26.06.11 21:41

Invariable Benchmarks

The Regional Centre of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Ashgabat got a new leader this spring. The Centre is now headed by diplomat Sergei Belyaev, who has held senior positions in the OSCE headquarters for more than ten years. Prior to joining the OSCE, the current leader of the Ashgabat Centre had been a career diplomat. He headed the Russian diplomatic mission in New Zealand and Angola and held senior positions in the Russian Foreign Ministry. Upon assuming new responsibilities, Sergey Belyaev kindly agreed to answer questions from “Turkmenistan” magazine.

- Mr. Ambassador, our publication has never covered in detail the activities of the OSCE mission in Turkmenistan. Please tell us about the goals and methods of operation of the OSCE Centre in Ashgabat.

- First of all, let us recall the history of establishment of contacts and cooperation of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe with Turkmenistan.

As is known, the OSCE, which Turkmenistan joined in 1992, is the largest regional organization dealing with security issues. At present, the organization consists of 56 countries from Europe, Central Asia and North America. The OSCE approach to security is unique and comprehensive. It covers all possible dimensions of security – military, political, economic, ecological, and human. All the OSCE member-states have equal status. They are not bound by obligations, and they build relations solely on the basis of the principle of voluntary cooperation.

The broad membership of the organization, its diverse arsenal of mechanisms for conflict prevention, loyalty to the tradition of holding an open dialogue and consensus-building, the balanced and effective system of contacts and cooperation with other organizations and institutions - all this makes the OSCE standing in the international community unique and gives its members universal tools in their quest for the universal and comprehensive security.

It is very important to note the similarity of the fundamental principles professed by the OSCE in international relations and the foreign policy of neutral Turkmenistan. This largely explains the prestige that Turkmenistan has earned at the OSCE, as well as the effectiveness of our Centre in Ashgabat.

The OSCE Centre in Turkmenistan focuses primarily on strengthening regional cooperation, border security, combating terrorism, drug trafficking and weapons. In addition, we contribute to the processes of democratization, legal reforms and respect for basic human rights and freedoms, development of the information-legal framework for the country’s transition to a market economy and greater awareness in the sphere of environmental protection.

Over more than ten years of its activities in Turkmenistan, the Centre has gained great experience of cooperation with the Government of Turkmenistan in accordance with the needs and priorities of the country. The Centre regularly organizes conferences, seminars and training courses on a wide range of issues in all three OSCE’s dimensions of security - military, political-economic, and environmental-humanitarian.

- Could you elaborate on the specific programs?

- Let me emphasize the effectiveness of cooperation between Turkmenistan and the OSCE in the area of energy security that the country attaches a priority. In May last year, the Government of Turkmenistan in collaboration with the Office of the OSCE Co-ordinator on Economic and Environmental Activities and the OSCE Centre in Ashgabat organized an international high-level conference entitled "Strengthening regional cooperation in Central Asia to promote stable and reliable power supplies in Eurasia”. The conference came up with an idea to expand cooperation in this area between the OSCE and Turkmenistan. As a result, we successfully conducted a seminar on energy diplomacy in Ashgabat in March this year.

As part of the military-political dimension, the Centre aims to provide every possible assistance to Turkmenistan in strengthening border security and border management. The Centre organized a series of practical training courses to improve professional skills of law enforcement officials to curb the illicit trafficking of narcotic substances. We gained priceless experience of interaction between customs services of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan during the implementation of training programs to ensure safe cross-border transit of goods.

The Centre is constantly expanding the scope of its activities in the economic and environmental dimension. In addition to traditional areas of cooperation such as environmental protection, transition to a market economy, development of small and medium-sized businesses, the Centre implements programs in the field of agricultural production, rail transport, water and land resources.

Developing the humanitarian dimension of its activities, the Centre provides the Turkmen side with expertise in legal matters, makes recommendations on the use of global democratic experience for the staff of legislative bodies, judges, prosecutors, investigators, lawyers and law students, thereby assisting in legal reforms. We also expanded cooperation in vocational training and retraining of police officers. In addition, the Centre provides free advice services on a wide range of legal issues for the citizens of Turkmenistan and assistance in development of civil society and implementation of a number of educational projects for young people.

An important part of our activities is cooperation with the Turkmen media and the universities that train professional journalists. The Centre regularly organizes practical training courses with the main task to improve the professional skills of print and electronic media in Turkmenistan.

- During his recent visit to Turkmenistan, the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania Audronius Ažubalis appreciated and supported the peace-keeping policies and creative initiatives of neutral Turkmenistan which has been active in the search for optimal solutions to pressing problems of today. Does this mean a further convergence of positions of the OSCE and Turkmenistan on improving approaches to achieving global security?

- It is certainly true. We can be optimistic about the successful continuation and deepening of cooperation. The emphasis will be placed on specific priorities and needs of the country in conjunction with the general principles and values of the OSCE. We sincerely welcomed and supported the principled position of President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov on countering modern challenges such as international terrorism, drug trafficking and transnational crime.

The OSCE partnership with Turkmenistan in the sphere of energy security will remain one of the priority areas of cooperation. In the humanitarian sphere, we will continue to provide full support to Turkmenistan in the implementation of legislative reforms, improving the electoral processes and human rights education.

There is no doubt that the process of cooperation between the OSCE and Turkmenistan will be getting qualitatively new content year by year. The active personal participation of the President of Turkmenistan in the OSCE summit in Astana at the end of last year is convincing evidence of this. All this suggests that the Turkmen part of the OSCE's work becomes more productive and eventful. This is also of great personal professional interest for me. I very much hope to use my international experience in the future work at the Centre in Ashgabat to deepen the dialogue between Turkmenistan and the OSCE. I will be also happy to deepen my knowledge of this remarkable and unique country and its hospitable people.

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