Bled Strategic Forum
Bled, Slovenia, September 12, 2018
Thank you very much for this opportunity to contribute to this very distinguished panel.
First, let me start by saying the following. The people of Syria have suffered immensely over the past 7 years. I am sure everyone agrees that an end to the conflict must be reached as soon as possible. However, the resolution to the conflict should not entail more innocent lives being lost. I hope that the involved parties to the conflict, as well as the international community, ensure that the lives of innocent Syrian people are preserved when striving to end the war.
In talking about mediation and the Astana Process on Syria, specifically, I would like to first make a historical footnote -- short, yet very relevant for our subject. Were it not for the many months of sustained mediation by President Nursultan Nazarbayev between the Russian and Turkish presidents in 2016 following the incident with the downing of the Russian war plane over the Syrian border, the Astana Process would not have come about. Behind-the-scene efforts by our President and other top officials over many months have created necessary preconditions for the leaders of Russia and Turkey to overcome their grievances. This has set the stage for these two nations, each supporting opposing sides in the Syrian conflict, to agree on a plan of action on how to wind down the hostilities.
While that mediation was limited in scope as there was no military conflict to stop, rather there was a threat of larger confrontation and destabilization, it is important to look at some of the key factors that ensured its ultimate success. It seems that this success can be attributed to some of the key principles as outlined in the UN Guidance on Effective Mediation, such as impartiality, consent of the parties, as well as coherence, coordination and complementarity of the mediation effort.
But, perhaps, the most important factor of success has been the respect that President Nazarbayev enjoys in relations with the President Vladimir Putin of Russia and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. And this is the first point I'd like to emphasize. For mediation to succeed, it has to be pursued by an authoritative person or state. With President Nazarbayev, we have seen this also work in past mediation efforts in 2010 during Kazakhstan's chairmanship in the OSCE, as well as in his efforts to bring the parties of the Normandy format back together for the second Minsk meeting in 2015.
My second point is that in our world of increasingly complex conflicts the other critical factor ensuring the success of mediation efforts is the role of middle powers as countries enjoying international confidence as neutral and independent actors. Kazakhstan and Astana, while only playing host to the talks and not mediating directly in the conflict, meet all these criteria for the parties involved in the Syrian conflict.
Our multi-vector foreign policy has ensured Kazakhstan has good relations worldwide. It is this policy that has enabled Kazakhstan to play a role as an unbiased and objective mediator.
Kazakhstan's chairmanships in the OSCE and the OIC are examples of the role we can play as the regional mediator.
It is no coincidence that Kazakhstan has put forward an initiative to convene a Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA).
At the heart of this initiative was the conviction that the vast region needed a comprehensive and reliable system of collective security. Such initiatives had already been put forward at the end of the 20th century by a very big power. However, it is the initiative of our country as a Middle Power not burdened by conflicts, starting foreign policy with a clean slate and having a credit of trust, backed up by being one of the first countries in the world to give up nuclear weapons, that was supported by a large number of countries in Asia and international organizations (26 member countries, 9 observers).
CICA has become more and more relevant each year. This is due to the fact that Asia is turning into the main zone of international relations of the 21st century both in terms of its economic potential and in its influence on world politics.
One can say that Astana, hosting platforms such as the Astana Process on Syria, or the summits of the OSCE and OIC, is a place for confidence building, for confidence growing and strengthening.
One can also say that the middle powers, certainly along with smaller nations, are the ones most interested in maintaining stability, peace and security, as well as predictability in international relations, observance of international law as these factors are vital for their well-being and sustainable development.
My third point is that the international community has a defining role to play in mediation efforts. When examining past mediation initiatives throughout the conflict, the international community's involvement has been crucial. Collective international efforts will be fundamental in bringing an end to the violence in Syria. In another case, though it is currently facing challenges, the agreement on the Iranian nuclear deal is a good example of the international community coming together to reach a deal of global significance.
Whenever substantive progress has been made it has come from mediation efforts combined with the application of external leverage by key international power brokers. This dual approach is critical to any future successes, and Kazakhstan continues to call on key regional and international actors to bring their respective sides back to the negotiations table.
Finally, my fourth point is as follows.
Kazakhstan, as a bridge between Europe and Asia, has always been and remains ready for practical joint work with all partners.
Of course, we remain realistic and understand that all the major players in our region pursue their quite understandable and, I would say, legitimate interests. We are, however, alarmed by the distinct ideological tension, which makes the clash of these interests potentially quite destabilizing.
The goal of Kazakhstan's policy in Eurasia is to create an international environment where the energy of key actors is redirected towards the solution of development problems. Without limiting the influence of ideologies on the future Eurasian architecture, progress on the three complementary tracks – security, economic development and effective governance/democracy – will be uneven and eventually lead to systemic problems throughout. Kazakhstan has repeatedly called for replacing the mentality of the Great Game with the Great Gain for All paradigm, and will continue to pursue that course in our relations with everybody.
So my fourth and final point is that the best way for mediation to succeed is to use it in a preventive manner, to resolve conflicts before they become bloody and deadly through dialogue, compromise, common sense and cooperation.
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