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Legal status of a country arising from its abstention from all participation in a war between other countries, the maintenance of an attitude of impartiality toward the belligerents, and the recognition by the belligerents of this abstention and impartiality. Historically, the rights of neutral countries typically included freedom from use or occupation of their territory by any warring party, maintenance of diplomatic relations with other neutrals and belligerents, freedom of their citizens to go about their business, and respect for their intent to be neutral. In both World War I and World War II, many of the basic concepts of neutrality ceased to be respected, and by the late 20th century the freedom of the neutral had been sharply reduced.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on neutrality, visit Britannica.com.