Mongolyin Tsakhiagiin ELBEGDORJ
The President of Mongolia

Mongolia as a neutral state. I have long pondered about this issue. And I exchanged views on the matter. And had some studies done and conclusions drawn. Now the time to discuss it publicly has come.

Every Mongolian cares for further consolidation of our country’s freedom, independence and sovereignty. And every Mongolian endeavors to make his own contribution to this cause. Many view that being a neutral state perfectly serves that very interest. The issue – neutrality – had been hotly debated and discussed during the years when Mongolians fought for restoration of our freedom and independence, and during the tense days of democratic revolution too.

International law views the neutrality status quo in two main categories. This status classification purely depends on the decisions and proclamations a neutral state undertakes. There is a neutrality status quo in wartime. There is also a permanent neutrality status quo. There can also be active and inactive neutrality. So how the policy is named, so the content is defined. And there are certain treaties and agreements in international relations that define the policy essence and principles.

As far as Mongolia is concerned, it is true that Mongolia did not declare herself “as a permanently neutral state”. Yet in substance, form and action our foreign policy is fully coherent with the principles of neutral foreign policy. And it’s commendable that our national laws and the international treaties and agreements that Mongolia is signatory to are consistent with the neutrality principles. More specifically, Mongolia’s neutrality is delicately reflected in the very letter and spirit of the agreements and treaties we concluded with our neighboring states.

When contemplating on and discussing Mongolia’s neutrality policy we must first of all consider the following factors.

One: Since Mongolia adopted her new democratic Constitution Mongolia has actively pursued neutral in substance policies. However, we are yet to declare it, in form. The process of shaping and validating this policy is now only a matter of time.

Two: The history Mongolia has authored, our geographic location, the uniqueness of our chosen path of development are congruent with the spirit and principles of neutralism. Neutrality enables a country to maintain equal and balanced international relations. Other states and international organizations respect such a status quo of a neutral state.

Three: The state of international affairs and International order change over time. Yet the neutral policies and actions do sustain over the course of time. For the state which upholds neutrality preserves the full power to amend, renew or abandon its neutralist policy.

What does “Permanent Neutrality” mean? A permanent neutrality is a policy whereby a sovereign state declares itself to be neutral toward the belligerents during wartime and maintain neutrality in time of peace. In the event a neutral state is attacked by external aggression, it has a full right for defense. At the same time, it voluntarily assumes a duty not to wage and join wars. A permanently neutral state reserves a power to have its own army and troops. And this very right serves as the assurance of the immunity of its neutrality. A classical representative of a permanently neutral state, Switzerland, is considered to have Europe’s most capable army with high maneuver skills. And the founding concepts of Mongolia’s defense concepts are consonant with neutralism.

The territorial immunity of a neutral state is re-assured by international law. This includes both air and water borders too. It is prohibited for belligerent troops to conduct war on the territories of a neutral state. Also a neutral state has the power to not let the transportation of belligerent armies’ personnel, arms and war materials across its territory. Permanent neutrality also has certain implications for nuclear weapons issue and the country’s membership in any military alliance.

In this way the core principle of neutrality is formulated and implemented. Even so, the form of actions and implementation of this policy depends directly on the state which declares neutrality. And the interpretation is the same. Put shortly, the state declaring neutrality has the right to even narrowly define or set certain boundaries and constraints over its neutral powers, and expound and declare this policy. On the other hand, the quality of the neutrality of the state also depends on its international reputation and how active the country is on international stage.

It is not necessary for a state to seek support from any particular country or international organization to validate its neutrality status quo. Yet in international relations, a country which declares neutrality is recognized and even registered as such. But obviously any such state would aspire to achieve understanding, recognition and support from its neighboring states, other countries and international organizations. Our forefathers and fathers have always maintained dignity and temperance in any matter. Inheriting this ancestral quality, we shall hold equally high and honor the UN and our own Charter in our aspirations in the new era.

Unity, continuity and clarity of Mongolia’s foreign policy are at the heart of Mongolia’s interests and benefits. Neutrality is a universally recognized tool useful for us, the Mongolians, to harness and build upon our existing potentials on one hand, and to pursue active, flexible relations with other countries, on the other hand. This may also be seen a universal value, a collective human experience. And an opportunity for Mongolia. Opportunities are rare. Values evolve slowly. Handy here would come our persistence and consistency. Inarguably, that status of ours will help invigorate many policies, initiatives and actions centered on Mongolia.

Mongolia as a permanent neutral state. I think, further discussions and deliberations on this topic, and achieving and implementing certain decisions will be consistent with Mongolia’s interests and benefits. I have briefly explored on the definition, legal status and some other related aspects in a separate note, referenced to this article. May good deeds prosper. May my Mongolia dwell eternally.

September 7, 2015


This Annex contains brief reference information on neutrality based on the classical model of Switzerland and the latest model of Turkmenistan’s permanent neutrality, including as to how it is regulated by international law and how the principles of neutrality are enshrined in Mongolia’s Constitution and policy papers.

I. On the status of neutrality

Neutrality originates from the Latin word “neuter”. It is the foreign policy status of refraining from participation in warfare and from joining military alliances in peacetime.

There are two kinds of neutrality – neutrality in wartime and permanent neutrality. The State observing neutrality in wartime is obliged not to participate in warfare, assist the belligerent parties or allow the use of its territory, and is obliged to treat the belligerent parties equally.

Apart from refraining from participation in warfare, the permanently neutral State assumes a duty to refrain in peacetime from using force against other countries, starting a war, joining military alliances and allowing deployment of foreign troops on its territory. Should the neutral State become a victim of foreign aggression, it has the right to defend itself and request assistance from other States and the UN.

In the 19th century, neutrality used to be established by an international treaty, which was primarily associated with the conclusion of peace agreements after war. Switzerland was granted a neutrality status in 1815 by a Declaration of the Congress of Vienna, Belgium by the Treaties of London of 1831 and 1839, Luxembourg by the 1867 Treaty of London and Congo by the 1885 Treaty of Berlin (among them only Switzerland retained its neutrality). The Vatican and Malta gained neutrality by concluding treaties with Italy in 1929 and 1983 respectively.

Since the declaration of neutrality by Sweden in 1834, nations have come to establish neutrality on their own by declaration. This is how the following countries declared neutrality: Liechtenstein by a declaration of 1868, Costa Rica by a declaration of 1949, Austria by the State Treaty of 1955, Cambodia by the Neutrality Act of 1957, Laos by a declaration of 1962, Ukraine by a declaration of 1990 and Turkmenistan by a specific Law of 1995.

Several countries stayed neutral during World War II. Today, Austria, the Vatican, Ireland, Costa Rica, Liechtenstein, Malta, Turkmenistan, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland are neutral States (but neutrality has become the subject of much debate in Austria, Ireland, Malta, Finland and Sweden, which have all become EU members).

It is the purview of each individual country whether to recognize the status of those States that have declared neutrality on their own. For instance, when Mexico declared neutrality in 1930, Moldova in 1994, Serbia in 2007 and Ghana in 2012, some of their neighbours announced that they would not recognize their status. Austria, Costa Rica, Liechtenstein and Sweden did not face this issue, while Turkmenistan even achieved recognition of its status though the adoption by the UN General Assembly of a relevant resolution in 1995.

II. International law of neutrality

Neutrality is recognized by international law.

Neutrality in wartime is regulated by international law, in particular the Hague Convention (Hague V) of 1907 respecting the Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers and Persons in Case of War on Land and the Hague Convention (Hague XIII) of 1907 concerning the Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers in Naval War. China, France, Germany, Japan, Russia and the United States are among 37 States Parties to those two Conventions which came into force in 1910.

In contrast, permanent neutrality is not regulated by international law. In other words, there is no international law instrument which regulates what falls under permanent neutrality, how it is established and whether it needs to be recognized by other States.

Hence, although States can freely define and establish permanent neutrality in different ways, there have emerged some common principles such as refraining in peacetime from using force against other countries, starting a war, joining a military alliance and allowing deployment of foreign troops on its territory, and exercising one’s right to self-defence in the event of foreign aggression (the rights and duties of neutral States in wartime are regulated by the above-mentioned Fifth and Eighth Hague Conventions, and the permanently neutral State needs to accede to those conventions).

III. How the principles of neutrality are reflected in Mongolia’s Constitution and policy papers

1. Article 10.1 of the Constitution of Mongolia states: “Mongolia shall adhere to universally recognized principles and norms of international law and pursue a peaceful foreign policy.” Article 4.3 states: “The crossing of foreign troops across the state borders for the purpose of deployment on and transit through Mongolia’s territory shall be prohibited without the adoption of a relevant law.”

2. Article 5.1 of the Law on Deployment and Transit of Foreign Troops of 8 January 1998 states: “In the absence of danger from the belligerent parties to Mongolia’s independence and sovereignty, deployment and transit of either party’s troops through Mongolia’s territory shall be prohibited.”

3. Article 4 of the Law on Nuclear-Weapon-Free Status of 3 February 2000 provides as follows: “4.1. A person, a legal entity or a foreign State shall be prohibited from initiating, carrying out or participating on Mongolia’s territory in the following actions related to nuclear weapons: 4.1.1. Develop, produce or otherwise acquire, possess or exercise control over nuclear weapons; 4.1.2. Deploy or transport nuclear weapons by any means; 4.1.3. Test or use nuclear weapons; 4.1.4. Bury or dump nuclear weapons grade special radioactive material, residue and hazardous waste. 4.2. It is prohibited to transit through Mongolia’s territory the parts or components of nuclear weapons and their waste, as well as goods and items prepared or produced for nuclear weapons purposes.

4. Section of the National Security Concept adopted by Resolution 48 of the Parliament on 15 July 2010 states: “Political activity and diplomacy shall be the main means of ensuring Mongolia’s independence and sovereignty. Within this framework, Mongolia shall abide by the principle of multi-pillar foreign policy and develop active relations and cooperation with countries of the world and international organizations”. Section “Mongolia shall consistently pursue a peaceful foreign policy and actively support the international community’s efforts to strengthen peace and security”. Section “Mongolia shall develop good-neighborly, friendly relations and broad cooperation with the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation. At the same time, in view of its national interests and the historical tradition of its relations, it shall give priority to regional peace and stability and strive to have an overall balanced relationship with both its neighbors”.

5. Section 3 of the Foreign Policy Concept adopted by Resolution 10 of the Parliament on 10 February 2011 states: “The prime goal of Mongolia’s foreign policy is to ensure its security and inherent national interests by politico-diplomatic means in the framework of international law.” Section 4: “Mongolia shall pursue a peaceful, open, independent and multi-pillar foreign policy.” Section 6: “In maintaining relations with other countries, Mongolia shall be guided by universally recognized principles and norms of international law enshrined in the UN Charter, such as mutual respect for one another’s independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and the inviolability of borders and the right to self-determination, non-interference in domestic matters, peaceful settlement of disputes, respect for human rights and freedoms, and equal and mutually-beneficial cooperation, as well as other principles set out in the primary instruments of bilateral relations.” Section 7: “While striving to actively develop relations and cooperation with influential counties in the region and beyond, Mongolia shall avoid becoming over-dependent on any country”. Section 11: “In the absence of a foreign military threat, Mongolia shall follow the policy of not joining any military alliances, allowing the use of its territory and air space against any country, allowing foreign troops either access or deployment on and transit through its territory”. Section 13: “As a member of the international community, Mongolia shall strive to contribute to common efforts to resolve regional and global issues.

6. Part II of the Foundation of State Military Policy adopted by Resolution 56 of the Parliament on 15 May 1998 states: “Mongolia does not consider the threat or use of force as a means of settling disputes by peaceful means and shall not accept any violence and aggression; it shall not under any circumstances use force against another country first, cause a military danger or threat to others or participate in any war or armed conflict where it is not a victim of foreign aggression itself. It shall fulfill its duty to provide support and in-kind assistance to UN activities and provide mediation and reconciliation in accordance with the UN Charter. Mongolia shall not join any military alliances unless its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity are under military danger or threat or such danger or threat is certain to occur. Mongolia shall strictly abide by the policy of not allowing foreign troops either access or deployment on and transit thought its territory without the adoption of a relevant law.

IV. Swiss neutrality

Swiss permanent neutrality is considered the traditional, classical model of neutrality. The declaration by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 restored Switzerland’s independence and established its neutrality. This was recognized in the same year by Austria, Britain, Russia, Prussia and France in the Paris Agreement. The Treaty of Versailles of 1919, which ended World War I, confirmed Swiss neutrality. The Swiss Constitution cites neutrality as an instrument for safeguarding independence.

As a neutral country, Switzerland actively provides observer services, mediation, reconciliation and peace support in international relations, and makes its territory a platform for international dialogue and negotiations and the seat for international organizations. For instance, it participated in monitoring the terms of peace in 1953 after the Korean War and in 1967 after the Middle East armed conflict, sends observers to elections in many countries and participates in UN peace support operations. Switzerland is a member of the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and is the seat of 26 international organizations.

During a referendum in 2002, 54.6% of the Swiss people supported Switzerland’s accession to the UN, and during its accession Switzerland stated: “Switzerland is a neutral state whose status is based on international law. Even as a member of the UN, Switzerland remains neutral.”

Switzerland has assessed the compatibility of some of its foreign policy activities with neutrality as follows:

- Sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council, as well as economic sanctions imposed by the European Union and other international actors are not covered the law of neutrality and are, therefore, compatible with neutrality.

- Participation in peace support and peace enforcement operations is compatible with neutrality if operations are based on a mandate of the UN Security Council or are carried out with the consent of the conflicting parties (however, participation in peace-enforcement combat operations is prohibited).

- Conduct of joint exercises and armament cooperation with foreign countries are compatible with neutrality as long as no assistance obligation is entailed in the event of war.

- Membership of interna¬tional organizations such as the OSCE and the European Union is compatible with neutrality because there is no assistance obligation in the event of war.

- Participation in the NATO Partnership for Peace program is compatible with neutrality because it entails neither NATO membership nor an obligation to assist NATO.

- NATO membership is incompatible with neutrality because NATO member states are obliged to provide mutual assistance in the event of war.

Switzerland is consistent in its neutrality. During the NATO bombing of Serbia and the US attack against Iraq, Switzerland rejected NATO and the US requests for military overflights across its territory because those operations had not been sanctioned by the UN. However, Switzerland participated in the KFOR peace-keeping force which was deployed in Kosovo with a UN mandate after the end of the NATO operation.

Swiss neutrality does not mean that it does not have a self-defence capability. It has a strong army. All Swiss men are obliged to serve some time in the military every year. They are also required to maintain their preparedness by keeping the firearms they are issued during military service at home after they leave the military. The army is considered the guarantee of neutrality.

V. Turkmenistan’s neutrality

Turkmenistan’s permanent neutrality is the latest model of neutrality. In 1995, Turkmenistan enacted its neutrality status in its Constitution and had it recognized by the UN General Assembly resolution.

Article 6 of Turkmenistan’s Constitution states: “Turkmenistan shall formulate its foreign policy based on the principles of permanent neutrality, non-interference in other countries’ domestic affairs, non-use of force, non-accession to military alliances and the promotion of peaceful, friendly and mutually beneficial cooperation with other countries.”

As envisaged in the Law on Permanent Neutrality of Turkmenistan, permanent neutrality shall be the foundation of foreign policy and shall be maintained in political, military and economic fields. Turkmenistan shall not join any intergovernmental organization which entails strict obligations of military alliance and common responsibility. It shall not start or participate in wars and armed conflicts. It shall not possess, produce or proliferate the weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, chemical and bacteriological weapons), and shall not allow the establishment of foreign military bases on its territory. Should it become a victim of another country’s military aggression, it shall have the right to request assistance from other States and the UN. It shall not exert economic pressure on any country or support economic sanctions imposed on any country.

Turkmenistan is the only country whose neutrality has been recognized by the UN. In 1995, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 50/80 entitled “Permanent neutrality of Turkmenistan”, recognizing and supporting Turkmenistan’s permanent neutrality, as well as calling upon UN Member States to respect and support this status.

Turkmenistan strives to contribute to bringing about peace in the region and become a neutral platform for dialogue and negotiations among the parties concerned. It has hosted inter-Tajik peace talks, inter-Afghan peace talks and an international forum on Afghanistan. It also established in Ashgabat the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia, initiated by Central Asian countries. It will host an international conference on the theme “Policy of neutrality: international cooperation for peace, security and development” in December 2015. Due to its neutrality policy, Turkmenistan has not become a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Neutrality falls under the purview of the State that has declared it. Once declared, neutrality becomes one of the main courses of that State’s foreign policy. That State is considered neutral in international practice and falls under the relevant legal mechanism.