The Principle of Positive Neutrality in Turkmenistan’s foreign policy

Positive neutrality has been a guiding principle of Turkmenistan’s foreign policy since 1995. It was largely through the efforts of the Non-Aligned Movement that the country, which gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union, became the first and till date the only state which is officially recognised and documented by the international community as positively neutral. The founding President of Turkmenistan, Turkmenbashy Saparmurat Niyazov, articulated the conceptual basis of positive neutrality which set the stage for Turkmenistan to chart out its path for development and progress on its own terms while respecting the fundamental principles of international peace and cooperation.

At the 1995 Non-Aligned Movement Summit held in Cartagena, Columbia, the heads of the NAM Member States along with the observer countries gave their unanimous support to Turkmenistan becoming a neutral state. It was at the Cartagena summit that Turkmenistan became a member of the Non-Aligned Movement. NAM Member States expressed their support towards the commitment of Turkmenistan to play a constructive peaceful role in providing stability and mutual understanding between the States on the basis of positive neutrality. Non-Aligned Movement played a pivotal role when the General Assembly of the United Nations unanimously adopted the Resolution on the Permanent Neutrality of Turkmenistan on December 12 1995. President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov at the International Conference to mark the 15th anniversary of neutrality of Turkmenistan held on October 14, 2010 stated that peacefulness, non-interference in the affairs of other nations, respect for their sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-participation in international military organisations and treaties were the fundamental principles. Thus, Turkmenistan as a neutral state “does not participate in military blocs and alliances, does not allow the creation of military bases on its territory or its use by other countries for military purposes. This is in line with the objective of NAM’s founding principle of peaceful co-existence.

At the 2012 Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement held in Tehran, Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov stated that strategic priorities of Turkmenistan’s foreign policy are in harmony with the philosophical foundations of the Non-Aligned Movement. He stressed that Turkmenistan, in its activities in the international arena, supports strengthening the global peace, promoting the disarmament processes and resolving all arising disputes through diplomatic means. In 2015, the country successfully held the International Neutrality Conference in its capital Ashgabat, on the occasion of the successful completion of two decades of its foreign policy of positive neutrality.

It needs to be emphasised here that the principle of positive neutrality does not imply isolation from international relations, but rather envisages a constructive role for the country. Thus, Turkmenistan has been playing a proactive role as a regional peacemaker. . During the Tajik Civil War, Ashgabat provided a platform for negotiations between rival parties. Additionally, in 2007, the headquarters of the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA) was established in Turkmenistan to assist the region’s stability. The centre has played an important role in facilitating dialogues, introducing capacity building measures, and reducing the potential threats of cross-border challenges such as drug trafficking, terrorism and environmental degradation.

The success of Turkmenistan’s pursuit of a foreign policy of positive neutrality can be gauged from the fact that today the country maintains diplomatic relations with 142 countries of the world and is a member of 44 international organizations. On February 18, 2017, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov outlined the key provisions of the “Concept of foreign policy of neutral Turkmenistan in the years 2017-2023” which was adopted by the country, The provisions entail that in the coming years Turkmenistan aims its foreign policy initiatives on the key areas of international relation, with a focus on cooperation in issues of global peace and security, the implementation of sustainable development goals and resolution of relevant issues on the agenda of the international community. Towards the realisation of the sustainable development goals, the country will offer its active cooperation areas of energy security, water supply, environmental protection and ecology, development of transport and communications systems. The country will strengthen cooperation with major international organizations, including the UN, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Non-Aligned Movement. Turkmenistan’s foreign policy of positive neutrality, based on the principles of Non-Aligned Movement has received broad support and appreciation of the international community and this is evident from the fact that On December 12th, 1995 and on June 3rd, 2015 General Assembly of the United Nations has twice unanimously adopted the resolution on “Permanent Neutrality of Turkmenistan”.

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