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OSCE Seeks Larger Role in Global Affairs, Starting With Kyrgyzstan

Representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe gathered Saturday for an informal meeting to discuss the group's changing role in international affairs. The organization hopes to re-establish its relevance, in part by bringing security to places in crisis like Kyrgyzstan.

Foreign ministers and other representatives of 56 OSCE member states gathered outside the Kazakh city of Almaty, for an informal meeting to discuss new strategies for the organization.

Kazakhstan currently holds the rotating chairmanship of the OSCE. In an address to the meeting, the country's president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, said that the organization must prove that it remains "closely woven into the life of the modern global political and economic system."

One way the OSCE hopes to help re-establish itself is by demonstrating its ability to help Kyrgyzstan recover from recent inter-ethnic clashes.

"This is a test for the organization now to show its relevance in - basically now that the conflict happened - in preventing any further escalation of tensions and providing all the potential that the OSCE has to help Kyrgyz authorities to restore stability and return the country on a path of stable constitutional development," said Roman Vassilenko, a spokesman for Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry.

At the Almaty meeting, OSCE member states agreed on a proposal to send about 50 police officers to Kyrgyzstan to assist and train local security forces in the south.

Tensions remain high in southern Kyrgyzstan one month after fighting killed up to 2,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more - mostly ethnic Uzbeks.

Vassilenko also said Afghanistan is of particular concern to OSCE members in Central Asia, and that the organization is considering what role it can play in the country.

"They agreed to consider expanding OSCE involvement, within its mandates, in international efforts to stabilize and reconstruct Afghanistan," he said. "I think specifics will soon need to be discussed, given that the OSCE is not like the United Nations and it doesn't have that much resources."

He said one area where the organization can help out in Afghanistan is through an existing program to train border guards.

The OSCE will have a chance to enact some of these policies at an official summit planned later this year in the Kazakh capital Astana.