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Central Asia: Regional Security Discussed At OSCE Conference

Vienna, 18 February 1998 (RFE/RL) -- International security experts concluded today a meeting in the Turkmenistan capital of Ashgabat on how to improve regional stability and restrict the proliferation of weapons.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) developed the two-day meeting as part of a range of activities in Central Asia. Five Central Asian countries -- Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan -- have been members of the OSCE since 1992.

The meeting began yesterday with a discussion of the risks for Central Asian countries from outside the OSCE community. The discussion, led by Uzbekistan, included a review of the political and military situation in Afghanistan. Afghanistan has borders with Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan and all of them have expressed concern at the situation there.

Yesterday's sessions also discussed security systems in Central Asia and trans-regional security issues. This discussion was led by Kazakhstan. Turkmenistan spoke about the international legal status of Turkmenistan as a permanent neutral state.

Today's session opened with a debate on a system of confidence-and-security- building measures in the region. Such measures include an exchange of detailed information about the size of each country's armed forces and the number of military aircraft, helicopters, artillery and armored vehicles. Other confidence-and-security-building measures may include prior notification about military movements, particularly military activities close to the border of another country.

The United States and Russia, which played the leading role in negotiating confidence-and-security-building measures in Europe, discussed how the measures can ease tensions. The OSCE has said several times that it is generally satisfied at the way confidence-and-security-building measures have worked to ease tensions in Europe. The OSCE has also enforced similar measures in Bosnia.

At another session, Tajikistan led a debate on the possible contribution by Central Asian countries to international peacekeeping operations.

The meeting also discussed stabilizing measures for localized crisis situations and measures for regulating transfers of conventional arms. Another session, led by France, discussed OSCE's emphasis on the democratic control of the armed forces as a factor for maintaining peace and for increasing respect for the military.