OSCE Briefing - 8714th Security Council Meeting

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06-Feb-2020 01:50:04
Ukraine crisis continent’s most pressing challenge, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Chair tells Council, underlining importance of dialogue.

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Albania’s Prime Minister outlined the priorities of his country’s 2020 Chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) today, assuring the Security Council that making a difference on the ground, respecting commitments and pursuing dialogue are hallmarks of its approach to addressing tensions in Ukraine, Nagorno-Karabakh and Transdniestria.

Edi Rama said the crisis in and around Ukraine is the most pressing security challenge in Europe, making efforts by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to reduce tensions essential. In his first meeting with Ukraine President Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelensky two weeks ago, he urged full implementation of the Minsk agreements and called for safe, secure access by the sides for the Mission.

More broadly, he said the organization supports efforts by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, noting that talks last week in Geneva centred on elements that could form the basis for a settlement. OSCE also supports the result-oriented approach to the “5+2 talks” on the Transdniestrian Settlement Process.

“Some might say that dialogue is the OSCE’s ultimate purpose,” he said. “The divisions in our region show how badly we need it.” At the same time, the basic principles of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act — respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and human rights — are still a simple recipe for security, prosperity and a future of peace. “Our task for the year ahead will be to guard these principles.”

In the ensuing discussion, delegates acknowledged OSCE as an indispensable platform for dialogue and cooperation, with Belgium’s delegate calling for its expanded cooperation with the United Nations. He nonetheless voiced concern over the deterioration of human rights in regions where OSCE is active.

For most delegates, that meant eastern Ukraine. Many welcomed discussions within the Trilateral Contact Group — comprised of Ukraine, the Russian Federation and OSCE — and under the Normandy format, which involves France, Germany, the Russian Federation and Ukraine. Germany’s delegate was among those denouncing attempts to intimidate the Special Monitoring Mission’s work. He called on both sides to ensure free and safe access for the team — a fact which France’s delegate said must include the border with the Russian Federation. Noting that France and Germany co-organized the first Heads of State summit within the Normandy format since 2016, he likewise said the illegal annexation of Crimea is a violation of Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders and must be forcefully condemned.

The United Kingdom’s representative agreed with the priority placed on the eastern Ukraine conflict. She called on the Russian Federation to release the 89 or more political prisoners — in that country and in Crimea — recalling that Ukraine’s confidence-building measures led to the holding of the Normandy format summit in Paris.

To those concerns, the Russian Federation’s delegate questioned whether Western colleagues had even read the Minsk agreements. Resolving the situation will be impossible without the direct participation of people in the eastern regions, and he called for dialogue among Kyiv, Donetsk and Luhansk. He also pressed the Council to react to statements made in Kyiv for the revision of the Minsk agreements, recalling that it had expressed its full support for those accords in resolution 2202 (2015).

Addressing questions raised by Council members, the OSCE Chair likened eastern Ukraine to a post-apocalyptic landscape with thousands of people — many elderly and sick — in search of medical help. A peacekeeping mission should be considered as a tool to “bring more substance” to those who guarantee compliance with the ceasefire — and to achieve more results for “normal people” who are living “a hell of a life”.

Also speaking today were representatives of Viet Nam, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia, Estonia, Niger, United States, China, Indonesia, South Africa and the Dominican Republic.

The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 11:53 a.m.

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