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Photo: OSCE/Vladimir Trofimchuk

The Spirit of Astana

Walter Kemp
Policy 01 December 2010

It’s freezing cold in Astana, but it seems that within the OSCE some old conflicts are starting to thaw. The very fact that the OSCE is holding its first summit since Istanbul in 1999 and may reach consensus on a political declaration for the first time in eight years are signs that a sense of common purpose is starting to prevail.

Since the Summit only opened this morning it is too early to predict the outcome. But there is hope for an Astana Declaration that will renew OSCE commitments and revitalize the Organization. The adoption of a Framework for Action would move participating States a big step closer to realizing their ambition of a common and indivisible Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security community. The Summit could also kick-start negotiating processes related to conflicts in Georgia, Moldova and in relation to Nagorno-Karabakh, and give new impetus updating arms control and confidence-building measures.

Since human rights and fundamental freedoms are at the heart of the OSCE’s concept of security, there is considerable debate on how participating States could improve implementation of their commitments. But even here, progress (or at least a lack of back-sliding) seems likely.

The Summit, hosted by President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, is well-attended, by senior officials from OSCE states (including Presidents Medvedev, Merkel, and Saakashvili, Prime Minister Berlusconi and Secretary of State Clinton), as well as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and representatives of Asian and Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation, including President Karzai.

Full marks to the Kazakhs for the organization of the Summit and their hospitality. After much skepticism of whether or not Kazakhstan should Chair the OSCE and if there should be a Summit, it looks (and I hope I don’t speak too soon) as though their Chairmanship has been good for the OSCE and good for Kazakhstan.

Consensus on a substantive Astana Declaration could give the OSCE new life and a more strategic perspective for the future. The next 24 hours will be decisive.