03/16/2015, 00.00
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Turkmenistan might close Afghan border to stop the Islamic State

Ashgabat is taking a number of steps to boost border controls with Afghanistan, including calling up 1,200 reservists. Since 1995, the country has had a policy of neutrality, recognised by the United Nations; however, the threat of Muslim fundamentalism is pushing the country to review its stance.

Ashgabat (AsiaNews) - Turkmenistan might close its border with Afghanistan because of the growing presence of the Islamic State group.

The authorities have in fact increased border controls, called up reservists for training exercises, and last month sent the country's Deputy Foreign Minister to Afghanistan to talk to local ethnic Turkmen.

The goal of such recent steps is to prop up the 462-mile long border with Afghanistan.

In doing so, Turkmenistan appears to be moving away from its stated policy of neutrality, however slightly. In 1995, the United Nations General Assembly formally recognised the Central Asian nation's neutrality.

Over the years, the Afghan-Turkmenistan border has become a problem because of the presence of the Taliban, and more recently, the Islamic State group.

Turkmenistan's Deputy Foreign Minister Vepa Hajiyev headed a government delegation to conduct secret negotiations with ethnic-Turkmen elders living in Afghanistan to dissuade them from taking up arms with the Taliban.

In a recent report, the Jamestown Foundation has in fact noted that Islamic fundamentalists carried out a recent attack on a power pylon in Dawlat Abad district (Faryab province, northern Afghanistan), which transmits electricity produced in Turkmenistan.

Turkmenistani authorities have reiterated their country's neutrality, a stance that was restated at a regional security conference organised by the government of Turkmenistan in cooperation with the NATO Liaison Office for Central Asia.

Titled "Issues of peace and stability in Central Asia and Afghanistan: a view from neutral Turkmenistan," the regional conference of experts provided Turkmenistan with a venue to engage foreign partners, most notably the European Union and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

These partners could help Ashgabat maintain internal security and foster regional stability against the growing threat of Islamic terrorism.

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