Initiative On The Caspian OSCE Clone

By Arthur Dunn

Addressing the 65th Session of the UN General Assembly the President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov mentioned the initiative to found a “Forum on Security, Peace and Cooperation in Central Asia and Caspian basin”. Obviously, they are talking about a kind of the OSCE analogue in the region.

Due to the near holding of the OSCE Summit in the neighboring Kazakhstan, Turkmen leader, evidently, attempted to raise this issue again.

During the time of its Presidency at the OSCE Kazakhstan has often voted for various initiatives, which are not optimistically perceived by some members of the Organization. But the Summit will last two days and the main agenda has been already set. That is why it will hardly be possible to include the ideas of Turkmen leader into the category of the subjects to be discussed. And they didn’t call the needed resonance.

> Central Asia Map

Also according to the experts, the suggestion of the President of Turkmenistan is unreal and groundless. Most likely it is a demonstrative initiative within the framework of “positive neutrality”, as Ashgabat declares its line.

Turkmenistan is not able to become a leader of promotion of the establishment of the organization similar to the OSCE. It seems that Turkmen Leader tried to explain that, suggesting organizing the first session of a series of regular meetings, in the nearest future in Ashgabat. Diplomatic service of Turkmenistan is not experienced and not that professional – the index of corruption perception in the country is one of the worst in the world.

Turkmenistan is a small in population (less than 5 mln) and underdeveloped country. It remains to be self-isolated, and one of the most repressive in the world. It’s considered that in comparison with his processor, the current President of Turkmenistan is not that eccentric and undertook a number of reforming steps within political and economic spheres. But they can’t be called systemic. As the country report of the Freedom House underlines, “the new President is rather more interested in the diversification of gas export, than in political and economic reforms”. The mechanism of self-reproduction of political system in the country is still not observed.

Moreover, the actions of Turkmenistan in the sphere of security assurance in the region of Caspian Sea are not simple. As known, the legal regime of the water basin is not determined still.  While the three riparian states (Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan) have the same idea on the principles of the sea division and the determination of the Caspian status, Turkmenistan is hesitating between them and a thwart Iran. Thus, today the format of the talks on the determination of Caspian Sea status looks like 3+1+1.

Experts note that provided Turkmenistan joined the Three, having changed the formula to 4+1, Iran would remain in isolation with its principled line and the talks with it would be held in a different situational background. This step of Turkmenistan would probably become the best example of its readiness to promote the solution of the long-standing issues in the region. In reality, with its line Turkmenistan in fact slows down the process of determination of the legal regime of Caspian Sea.

Here it’s also worth mentioning the under-open line of the government of the country concerning disputable with Azerbaijan riparian gas fields. In 2009 Turkmenistan refuted the suggestion of Azerbaijan on a joint development of the disputable reserves. And its President also even announced that the national government will address the International Arbitrary Court.

It seems, that the foundation of the Forum is simply inexpedient and will be a parallel inefficient arena. Pre-Caspian states have already promoted within the development of the draft treaty on interaction within the line of frontier, customs services and the bodies of domestic affairs in the sphere of security assurance within Caspian Sea. This document regulates the issues of struggle against terrorism, drugs traffic, weapon traffic and other kinds of organized crime, and also the extinction of illegal transportation of nuclear materials and components of mass destruction weapon.

By the way, the 26th Session of the Special Group on the development of Convention on the legal status of Caspian Sea at the level of Deputy Ministers of Foreign Affairs was held in November 2009 in Ashgabat.

The most restraining factor within the regulation of the number of problems of the region is a political one. There are already the arenas for interaction, and their cloning by the simple fact of their existence will hardly change the political will of stubborn governments.

Turkmen initiative was sounded on the background of the tensed preparation of the OSCE Summit to be held in Astana on December 1st – 2nd. Last time the leaders of the OSCE states gathered together 11 years ago in Istanbul, where they developed and adopted the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe.

From the very beginning of the Presidency Kazakhstan suggested the idea of the Summit holding. It was expected that the visit of the Foreign Affairs Minister of Kazakhstan Kanat Saudabayev to the USA in February 2010 should clarify the American support of the initiative on OSCE Summit. But it didn’t happen then.

Initially the idea of the Summit was supported, among the others, by Austria, Germany, Spain, Italy, Turkey, France, and Switzerland. But the USA and also Canada and Great Britain treated it without enthusiasm. As Russian press wrote referring to the sources in the OSCE Secretariat and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, “the only holdback were the states of North America” – the USA insisted on the development of its agenda content with the following resulting into definite decisions. This stimulated Astana to generate and support various initiatives. For example, the statements of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan on special attempts to solve the conflicts within Post-Soviet area. However, as experts note, their accomplishment was interrupted by the absence of real influence levers. For example, on the situation in Afghanistan.

In general, Kazakhstan changes focuses from the accomplishment of its liabilities on democracy promotion to the discussion of security and conflict solutions in other states. Traditionally Astana gives the attention to the first (measures on trust building and security, etc.) and the second (economic and ecologic security) baskets of main goals and tasks of the OSCE. What concerns the third one (human rights protection; democratic institutions development; elections monitoring), than Astana has to listen much critics on these issues.

Nevertheless, as it turned out, by the informal meeting of the OSCE member states Foreign Ministers, held in July 2010, on the issue of the necessity to hold OSCE Summit, Washington changed its view. And then in the number of Mass Media, also in Russian ones, information appeared that definite western circles considered Vienna as a compromise variant of the Summit arena, where the OSCE Headquarters locate.

It’s known that in winter 2010 during the visit of Kazakh Minister of Foreign Affairs the USA set a precondition on the progress within the sphere of human rights. As the USA still agreed on Kazakh initiative, we can assume that definite agreements were achieved in this sphere.

Probably, the achievement of the agreements on the holding of the Summit in Astana provoked curious comments by the deputy of the Institute of the CIS states Vladimir Zharikhin. During a recently held round table on the subject “from Helsinki to Astana. What should we expect from the OSCE Summit 2010?” Russian experts discussed the preparation to the OSCE Summit, its agenda and prospects. The mentioned Russian political analyst raised an issue on the justification of the participation of the USA and Canada and in this organization? ”In more than 60 years after the Second World War end, neither being European nor Eurasian states? And why should they actively participate within the prospect OSCE activity? Personally I don’t understand it. There are no rational reasons except for historic ones. This is our internal Eurasian matter how we should live. We can’t easily go without these leaders”, - he said.

Curious is the reaction of the Head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the State Duma of the Russian Federation Konstantin Kosachev. During the interview with reporters in Strasburg he called the kind of opinion as “just an opinion of the political analyst Zharikhin”, which is primitive and nonprofessional. So, we should think, that during the Astana Summit Russian delegation won’t support the kind of variant of the OSCE reforms.

It’s worth mentioning, that during the Summit in Budapest in December 1994, the institutional process started from the Paris Charter adoption in 1990 was ended by the renaming of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe into the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe. The renaming symbolized the transformation from the Conference into a full-value international organization. Hence, it’s absolutely evident, that the OSCE as the biggest organization of the kind in the world shouldn’t be limited with only European or Eurasian states. It’s strange, why is Russian political analyst so little aware of the history of the development of the organization, that resulted into the mentioned statement.

At the moment it’s known that the Summit agenda includes the confirmation of Helsinki Final Act of 1975, the consideration of the issues of struggle against terrorism, organized crime and drugs traffic, the situation in Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan. Except for that, Kazakhstan declares about the necessity to discuss the issues of Euro-Atlantic security, which is favored by Moscow promoting the idea on the conclusion of the corresponding treaty.

It’s assumed that Lithuania to chair the OSCE in 2011 will focus more on the issues of energy security. At the same time this issue is pretty delicate and it seems that the achievement of a consensus in this sphere anyway won’t outrun the extensive formulations.

Here it’s worth mentioning more expressive line of Turkmenistan on the readiness to export its gas to Europe. Just recently, on September 30th Berdymukhamedov declared that Turkmenistan is able to increase export of its gas four times during the oncoming 20 years. According to him, only resources of the founded giant field of the South Ioloten-Osman comprise about 18 trillion cubic meters of gas. In general already explored resources comprise 24,6 trillions, which exceeds the former evaluations three times.

Berdymukhamedov declared that gas reserves will assure the needs of Turkmenistan decades forward. He also said that Turkmenistan plans to produce 230 billion cubic meters of gas annually by 2030, and 180 billion of them will be exported.  To compare, annual capacity of the planned “Nabucco” pipeline is 38 billion cubic meters. The kind of development is able to promote even a greater diversification of the market of suppliers for the European Union. At the moment Turkmen gas export goes to Russia, Iran and China. As after the January crisis of 2009 European states draw conclusions concerning the way they should develop their relations with Russia within the terms of its doctrine of the valve power, the intensification of the relations between Turkmenistan and the European Union is pretty predictable.