2016 VISIT Tokayev Muttonen Astana 30 May 2016OSCE PA Special Representative for Central and Eastern Asia Christine Muttonen meets the Chairman of the Senate of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, in Astana on 30 May 2016ASTANA, 31 May 2016 – Expressing a strong belief in the role of inter-parliamentary diplomacy and dialogue, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Special Representative for Central and Eastern Asia, Austrian parliamentarian Christine Muttonen, today called for greater unity and co-operation across the OSCE area in countering violent extremism.

Speaking at the “Religions against Terrorism” conference taking place in Astana, Muttonen noted that the OSCE PA has become an important platform for supporting inter-religious dialogue, and stressed that promoting understanding and tolerance between religions is an essential component of the overall work of the OSCE.

“Today our co-operation is more important than ever,” she said. “In a time when groups of violent extremists try to misuse religious beliefs to justify their terrorist attacks, when they try to divide our countries and societies along religious lines, when young people hope to find solutions to their social and economic problems within extremism and violence, when competing agendas and hostile rhetoric often threaten to replace productive dialogue and co-operation among our participating States, in such a time it becomes quite obvious: The level of peace, freedom and stability that we have achieved within the OSCE area cannot be taken for granted.”

“We constantly need to stand up for it and maintain it,” she added, “if we don’t want to lose it again.” In this regard, she stressed the importance of unity in countering violent extremism, as well as respect for diversity, noting that the OSCE has appointed three personal representatives dedicated to inter-faith issues such as discrimination, intolerance and anti-Semitism. The OSCE PA also has a Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism and Intolerance, Senator Benjamin Cardin of the United States.

Muttonen’s participation in the conference today was part of a week-long visit to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan she is undertaking along with OSCE PA Secretary General Roberto Montella, which kicked off Monday with a series of high-level talks. Meetings were held with Chairman of the Senate of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Chairman of the Majilis of Kazakhstan Baktykozha Izmukhambetov, Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov, and with officials at the OSCE Programme Office in Astana.

Discussions largely focused on the upcoming Annual Session in Tbilisi, Georgia, the constructive role of Kazakhstan’s delegation within the Assembly, and the important work being done by the OSCE Programme Office. Other topics included Kazakhstan’s vision of possible ways to strengthen co-operation between the OSCE PA and Shanghai Co-operation Organization, as well as avenues for promoting further engagement in Eastern Asia.

The visit to Kazakhstan will end on Wednesday in Almaty, where the Special Representative is expected to meet several prominent representatives of the country’s civil society to discuss developments related to freedom of expression and assembly. Muttonen continues her Central Asia trip with a visit to Kyrgyzstan beginning Thursday.

Muttonen, who serves as Vice-President of the OSCE PA and as Deputy Head of the Austrian delegation, was appointed the Assembly’s Special Representative for Central and Eastern Asia in January 2016. In her mandate, she is tasked, inter alia, with encouraging active participation in the PA by parliamentarians from Central Asia, as well as liaising with and supporting the work of the OSCE field missions in the region.

To watch a recent interview with the Special Representative, in which she discusses her priorities, please click here. Photos of her visit this week to Central Asia are on Flickr. Her full remarks to the “Religions against Terrorism” conference are available here.