Kazakhstan Chamber of Commerce in the USA

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Leadership in conflict resolution

Posted on December 25, 2011 by Alex

Kazakhstan’s stewardship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reinvigorated the search for peaceful solutions to frozen conflicts. The country is continuing its leadership role as chair of the body’s Forum for Security Cooperation, which will carry on its work on conflict resolution – particularly in former Soviet countries. By Nora FitzGerald

Kazakhstan has seen a banner year in foreign affairs after its successful chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the premier regional security organization on the Eurasian continent. The country was the first post-Soviet republic to chair the 56-nation organization and it went on to host the first OSCE summit in 11 years, which culminated in a two-day meeting held in Astana in December. Kazakhstan, as OSCE chair, also had a major role in alleviating a violent uprising in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, and brought some largely forgotten conflicts in the former Soviet Union back onto the international agenda.

“We realize that the way to a true Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian community with united and indivisible security will blong and thorny,” said Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev. “We intend to raise the level and quality of security and understanding between our states and peoples.”

Kazakhstan’s push for the chairmanship of the OSCE was backed by Germany, Russia and Spain, despite some initial skepticism about the ability of a fledgling democracy of 16 million people in Central Asia to handle the responsibility. By the end of 2010, as Kazakhstan was handing over the chairmanship to Lithuania, there were widespread plaudits for its skillful diplomacy, which came to the fore during the Kyrgyz crisis – a conflict that threatened to descend into civil war.

Kazakhstan – working with the US and Russia – was critical to a negotiated settlement between the then-president Kurmanbek Bakiyev and Roza Otunbyeva, who led the revolt against him and subsequently became president. Kazakhstan also helped to organize the dispatching of a group of unarmed police officers, hailing from across the OSCE, to continue monitoring events on the ground in Kyrgyzstan.

Julie Finley, a former US ambassador to the OSCE who initially opposed Kazakhstan’s bid, said she was impressed with the country’s stepping out as a major player in international affairs. “Kazakhstan has knocked my socks off,” she said at a conference at the Center for Security and International Studies in Washington DC. “It has been open and outgoing in its leadership. It has been centered on what has been going on in Kyrgyzstan. It has been solid and professional from the get-go.”

Kazakhstan held more than 150 events associated with its chairmanship, and the country’s Foreign Minister and OSCE chairperson-in-office Kanat Saudabayev made more than 40 visits to various countries and regions.

The crowning glory of Kazakhstan’s chairmanship was the summit in Astana, the country’s glittering capital. The summit did not reach a final agreement on conflict resolution, an effort that Kazakhstan focused on the so-called frozen conflicts in the former Soviet Union. Before the summit, Chairman Saudabayev had visited the breakaway territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia, as well as the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the separatist region of Transdniestr in Moldova.

Despite Kazakhstan’s best efforts, the positions of some of the other member states were too intractable to allow for a diplomatic breakthrough. There were stand-offs between the US and Russia over Georgia, and between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. Nonetheless, Kazakhstan’s efforts gave new life to the search for peaceful solutions to these protracted and debilitating conflicts. This year, Kazakhstan will build on its leadership role within the OSCE as chair of the body’s Forum for Security Cooperation, which will continue the country’s work on conflict resolution, particularly in the former Soviet Union.

President Nazarbayev also tabled a series of less contentious proposals, such as creating an ecological forum  and a body to help fight transnational crime – items that will form part of the OSCE’s agenda in 2011. Kazakhstan will remain deeply involved in the OSCE’s leadership group as a member of the Troika, which also includes the current chair, Lithuania, and the 2012 chair, Ireland.

President Nazarbayev says Kazakhstan’s chairmanship of the OSCE was a rich experience, not only for the country’s leaders and diplomats, but also for its people. “The OSCE summit in Astana has positively influenced Kazakhstan. It has united our nation, strengthened belief in our ability to resolve incredibly difficult challenges and achieve our highest goals,” he says.

Kazakhstan also focused on security in Afghanistan, and increased its role in assisting the international coalition led by the US. Kazakhstan expanded its post-2001 grant of over-flight rights to include military supplies and personnel, not just non-lethal cargo. And in November, it agreed to send a contingent of troops and instructors to Afghanistan. This year, Kazakhstan is continuing its international leadership role as it assumes the chairmanship of the Ministerial Conference of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). This position again places the country in a leadership position to help resolve some of the most contentious international debates in the period after the ‘Arab Spring’. As a largely Muslim nation, Kazakhstan will continue to stress – as it did during its OSCE chairmanship – the need for inter-regional and inter-faith dialogue. Therefore, at the OIC Ministerial meeting on June 28-30, 2011, the Organization changed its name to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. At the meeting, President Nazarbayev shared his vision for the Islamic countries to stay on the path of peace, modernization, scientific and technological development and education. He said that to ensure long-term peace, the Islamic world should learn to confront religious fundamentalism as a political ideology and establish an open and honest dialogue with the West.

Foreign Minister Saudabaev says international cooperation can only succeed through the “constant exchange of ideas” across borders. Indeed, as President Nazarbayev noted at the end of the Astana OSCE summit: “Winston Churchill famously said: ‘To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.’”

SOURCE: Invest in Kazakhstan, 2011, p. 43-44

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