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Posted on Dec 13, 03:32PM | IBNS
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for greater cooperation amongst the countries of Central Asia, urging them to deepen their links to address the region's challenges and to seize opportunities for shared progress.
"Regional cooperation is critical," said Mr. Ban. "The challenges of climate change, drug-trafficking, terrorism and extremism cannot be tackled by any one country alone. Joint action will also help countries of the region better manage natural resources, expand trade and improve transport."
The UN chief's comments were part of a message to an international conference - entitled 'Neutrality and Preventive Diplomacy: Basis for Peace and Stability' - held on Tuesday in Turkmenistan's capital of Ashgabat, to mark the fifth anniversary of the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA). They were delivered on Mr. Ban's behalf by the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman.
Established in 2007 at the initiative of the governments of the five Central Asian countries and based in Ashgabat, UNRCCA is a special political mission which works to promote dialogue between the region's governments in finding solutions for existing and emerging problems and eliminating potential threats to peace and stability.
"The focus of the Regional Centre - prevention - is one of the priorities of my five-year action agenda," Mr. Ban said. "Early warning and early action can advance security and stability, save lives and promote sustainable development. Prevention is one of the best investments we can make."
The conference coincided with Turkmenistan's Day of Neutrality, which celebrates a 1995 General Assembly resolution recognizing the Central Asian nation's status of permanent neutrality.
"I also take this opportunity to congratulate the people and Government of Turkmenistan on the occasion of their Day of Neutrality," Mr. Ban said. "Through its policy of 'open doors' and its support for 'positive neutrality,' Turkmenistan has contributed to stability in Central Asia."
In his message, the Secretary-General also said that he has been closely following developments in the region, and highlighted the value that the world body's regional centres can have.
"The United Nations has established regional offices with political mandates in West and Central Africa as well as in Central Asia," Mr. Ban stated. "These three offices continue to prove the importance of strong partnerships, not just among countries of a region but also with and among regional organizations."
The conference was opened by Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and attended by senior UN officials, including the Secretary-General's Special Representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Jan Kubiš, in addition to Mr. Feltman.
Also attending were high-level delegates of regional organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the Economic Cooperation Organization. Central Asian States and other countries were represented by their delegations from Ministries of Foreign Affairs.
At a side-event on the margins of the conference, the heads of UNRCCA and the UN regional offices in Central Africa and West Africa - Miroslav Jenca, Abou Moussa and Said Djinnit, respectively - shared their experiences and lessons learned on preventive diplomacy as a tool to head off conflicts and prevent tensions from escalating.