A Turkmen proposal to reform the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe looks like an attempt to stop the grouping raising awkward questions about human rights.
At the meeting of OSCE foreign ministers in Brussels last week, Turkmenistan’s envoy Esen Aydogdyev said the grouping’s tendency “to be active in all areas is a waste of effort and money”.
Instead of this, he proposed that each OSCE member should be tasked with resolving its own problems, since it “knows the situation within its own country and must decide how it plans to develop within the framework of its international obligations”.
The OSCE has had a tense relationship with Turkmenistan. In 2003, a number of member states called for an investigation into the political repression that followed an alleged coup attempt in Turkmenistan the previous year. The OSCE applied the “Moscow mechanism”, whereby it sends in a team to gather information without the consent of the government concerned. The Turkmen authorities refused to allow the OSCE rapporteur to enter the country, and did not take up their right to present their own report at a subsequent meeting.
Aydogdyev also suggested changes to the way participants are chosen for OSCE events.
In 2005, the Turkmen foreign ministry objected to the participation of a number of human rights activists at an OSCE meeting in Warsaw, but its protest note went unanswered. There was a similar situation in November this year, when Ambassador Aidogdyev tried to block Turkmen opposition leaders from attending a meeting on media freedom held in Vienna. The OSCE declined his request.
Mars Sariev, an NBCentralAsia expert on Turkmenistan, said President Saparmurat Niazov wants to obstruct the OSCE’s human rights activity.
“Niazov thinks the OSCE pays too much attention to human rights. He thinks this approach is going too far and fails to take ‘local conditions’ into account. As such, he thinks it is a threat to Turkmenistan’s security,” said Sariev.
Some analysts believe Turkmenistan could withdraw from the OSCE if it feels the pressure to address human rights issues is becoming too intense.
“The OSCE in its present form is supposed to exercise certain executive powers and as such it is unhappy with Niazov’s dictatorship,” said Vyacheslav Mamedov, leader of the Civil Democratic Union, a Turkmen group based abroad.
Other NBCentralAsia say the Turkmen diplomatic initiative for OSCE reform has to be seen as part of a broader effort by former Soviet states to curb the grouping’s monitoring of elections and human rights.
Such efforts will fail, especially when the proposal comes from Turkmenistan, analysts say.
“The OSCE might make some formal concessions in pursuit of what some western politicians call “dialogue”. But these [Turkmen] efforts are a sham because everyone knows the OSCE is not going to undergo major reforms,” said Vitaly Ponomarev, who heads the Central Asian programme of the Russian human rights group Memorial.
(News Briefing Central Asia draws comment and analysis from a broad range of political observers across the region.)