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This year marks the 25th anniversary of international recognition of Turkmenistan's status of permanent neutrality. A number of important events both inside and outside Turkmenistan have been scheduled. The first among them was the conference "Turkmenistan and International Organizations: Cooperation for Peace and Development" in Ashgabat. The significance of this event was emphasized by the fact that President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov took part in the conference.
The list of participants was also impressive, including the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General; the Head of the UN Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia; the UN Resident Coordinator in Turkmenistan; the EU Charge d'Affaires in Turkmenistan, the Head of the OSCE Center in Turkmenistan; the directors of the country offices of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and Asian Development Bank; UNICEF; the heads of the regional offices of UNESCO, International Organization for Migration, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the United Nations Population Fund. Foreign mass media and the expert community were also represented at the high level.
Addressing the forum participants, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov emphasized that after gaining independence in the most difficult conditions of the actual collapse of the entire post-war system of international relations the issue of choosing a foreign policy course was one of the most important and challenging for Turkmenistan.
"We chose a model that we called positive neutrality, and we formulated its fundamental provisions, such as peacefulness, non-interference in the affairs of other states, respect for their sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-participation in international military organizations and treaties," Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov said.
It should be noted that the international community welcomed and understood the efforts of Turkmen diplomacy to formalize Turkmenistan's neutrality as an international legal status. The first support came from neighbors in the region, followed by the Non-Aligned Movement.
On 12 December 1995, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the resolution "Permanent Neutrality of Turkmenistan." It is significant that 25 states co-sponsored this resolution. Since then, the neutrality of Turkmenistan has become an important factor in the international peacekeeping efforts in the region. It was in Ashgabat that a series of talks took place under the auspices of the UN in the 90s of the last century. They played an important role in achieving peace and harmony in Tajikistan. The capital city of neutral Turkmenistan also hosted the talks to resolve the intra-Afghan conflict.
Turkmenistan has become a reliable ally and effective partner of the UN in preserving and maintaining political stability in the region, developing good neighborly relations, friendship and cooperation. It was also evidenced by the decision of the international community supported by all regional states to open the UN Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia in Ashgabat in 2007.
Turkmen neutrality is now a significant factor in regional security. The basic principles of neutrality are fully consistent with the UN strategic framework for Central Asia aimed at turning the region into a zone of peace and cooperation, a strong link of continental stability.
The importance of neutrality in the current context is eloquently demonstrated by the fact that following Turkmenistan's initiative the UN General Assembly proclaimed 12 December the International Day of Neutrality. The unanimously adopted resolution stresses the importance of the policy of neutrality in strengthening international peace and security at the regional and global levels, its role in developing peaceful, friendly and mutually beneficial relations between the countries of the world.
As a neutral state, Turkmenistan sees the establishment of a culture of dialogue to resolve emerging issues and disputes as one of its priorities. As is known, on 12 September last year, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted Turkmenistan-initiated resolution to declare 2021 the International Year of Peace and Trust that was co-sponsored by 73 member states. It is significant that the text of the resolution affirms the importance of preventive diplomacy, which is consistently and persistently promoted by Turkmenistan. There is every reason to believe that following the adoption of this resolution preventive diplomacy will play a more significant role in preventing conflicts, strengthening and maintaining peace and stability in different regions of the world and will be one of the most effective practical tools of multilateral diplomacy.
This resolution is highly relevant and timely, first of all against the background of those complicated and often painful trends in international politics. Despite the efforts of the international community, primarily through the United Nations, the situation in several regions of the globe remains complex, conflict zones grow in number and, at the same time, the general level of trust and mutual understanding of the divergence of views on the paths and prospects of global development declines. Ashgabat will host a major international conference on the role of neutrality in ensuring global peace and security this December. In addition, Turkmenistan will develop proposals on holding a number of other events to mark the International Year of Peace and Trust and bring them up for consideration at the UN.
Following the recent presidential elections in Afghanistan, supporting the process of reconciliation in this country is of particular importance. As a neutral state and immediate neighbor of Afghanistan, Turkmenistan is ready to ensure all conditions for organizing direct talks between all stakeholders who are interested in the peaceful, political settlement of the situation in Afghanistan.
Turkmenistan has prioritized the economic aspect of neutrality. This implies creating conditions for the accelerated socio-economic growth of the country, development of mutually beneficial foreign economic and trade relations. In this regard, Turkmenistan's neutrality safeguards such relations from any politicization and ensures equal treatment of all foreign partners. Mutual benefit, economic and commercial sufficiency, respect for traditions and laws of the country are the defining criteria for this matter. Such position is well-understood and highly appreciated by partners, making it possible to develop equal, mutually beneficial relations with various countries and companies.
The principles of Turkmenistan's neutrality, its non-confrontational worldview, strict adherence to the UN Charter and international law are fully manifested through the implementation of international infrastructure projects, primarily in the area of transport and energy, with the participation of Turkmenistan. These projects are driven not only by the prospects of commercial and economic benefits, but also by the desire to bring the states closer to each other, bridge their differences and create an atmosphere of greater trust and predictability in their relations through the implementation of large-scale joint projects.
At the same time, Turkmenistan stands ready to use its great resource potential and advantages of its geographical location to promote the goals of sustainable energy and transport in the interests of the broader global partnership. It is in this context that Turkmenistan's commitment to the principle of diversification of its energy and transport flows should be seen.
An interesting exchange of views on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Agenda took place during the conference.
In this regard, it should be emphasized that having fully supported this Agenda Turkmenistan immediately started making consistent and specific steps to adapt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to the national context. The UN agencies and representatives of the ministries and departments of Turkmenistan held consultations already in October 2015, during which the composition of the Joint Technical Working Group on the SDGs adaptation and relevant Terms of Reference were agreed and approved. Based on their results, about 150 goals and about 200 SDG indicators approved at the governmental level were selected. In fact, according to the UN, Turkmenistan became the first country in the region of Eastern Europe and the CIS to identify the priority Sustainable Development Goals for implementation over the next 15 years.
By now, the most important parameters of the SDGs, as well as their respective objectives and indicators have been organically integrated into the Program of Socio-Economic Development of Turkmenistan for 2019-2025.
According to the economic part of this Program, the implementation of the SDGs will promote universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy supply, sustainable economic growth and full employment of the population, creation of responsive infrastructure, sustainable industrialization and innovation. The Program gives utmost importance to the extensive digitalization of the national economy.
The implementation of the SDGs in Turkmenistan has a strong social orientation, including important aspects such as ensuring food security and improving nutrition of the population, the widespread promotion of healthy lifestyle, ensuring full gender equality through guaranteeing the rights and opportunities for all women and girls, creating conditions for an inclusive, fair and high-quality education. The country adopted a Strategy for Early Childhood Development and a Program for Provision of Community-Based Social Services.
Embarking on the implementation of national plans in various sectors of the economy, Turkmenistan responsibly and rigorously correlates them with the environmental component of development goals. In this sphere, the priority is to effectively implement modern schemes and methods of production, build industrial and social infrastructure to minimize the negative environmental impact. Supporting the efforts of the international community in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Turkmenistan is switching to the use of modern environmentally friendly and resource-saving technologies in the industry, mainly in the oil and gas, energy and transport sectors that account for the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions.
This criterion is unconditional in implementing national and international infrastructure projects in the energy and transport sectors. Turkmenistan has always clearly stated its position on this issue. Ecology and environment must not become hostage of commercial benefits, however attractive they may seem.
Efforts undertaken by Turkmenistan at the national level are based on the conceptual vision of the continuity and interdependence of modern problems, the importance of learning the experience of each country for the possible use in other parts of the world. Turkmenistan is ready to share its own, largely successful experience in nationalizing the SDGs. In this context, Ashgabat believes it would be useful to establish within the UN and its specialized structures a more systematic and focused multilateral dialogue to study the best practices that may lead to development of a special program of expert exchange and consultations.
Ashgabat is in favor of increasing joint efforts by the Central Asian states and international structures in ensuring equal and equitable access to water resources. Turkmenistan's position in this respect is well known. It believes that addressing and resolution of water management problems should be based on the universally recognized norms of international law, mutual respect and taking into consideration the interests of all states in the region with the participation of specialized international organizations.
Turkmenistan believes that the implementation of the principles of public-private partnerships and leveraging the private sector as a source of financing for SDGs are the most important aspect in the achievement of the SDGs.
One of the priority issues of Turkmenistan's international agenda for the coming period is cooperation in the humanitarian field, close cooperation with UNESCO in such areas as education, science, protection and restoration of historical and architectural monuments and other fields.
"Turkmenistan enters the year of the 25th anniversary of its neutrality in an atmosphere of peace and creation, good neighborliness, respect and mutual understanding with its friends and partners in the international community, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov emphasized in his speech. We clearly see our prospects and confidently make plans for development of the state and society. The right course towards the broad multifaceted international cooperation allows us to look forward with optimism."
Being a significant factor in maintaining regional and international peace, security and development, Turkmenistan's neutrality opens up new opportunities for the further consistent build-up of international partnership in all areas. Remaining strongly committed to its international obligations, neutral Turkmenistan declares with full responsibility its firm resolve to pursue such cooperation.


©Turkmenistan Analytic magazine, 2005