The Foreign Ministers of the participating States of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe are meeting in Basel against the backdrop of one of the worst crises in the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian area since the end of the Cold War.
The Ministers met informally yesterday evening for a discussion on “The Way Forward in Addressing the Crisis in and around Ukraine and the Role of the OSCE”. Today, they have gathered for Plenary Session I on “Addressing the Crisis of European Security and the Way Forward”. They also had a working lunch dedicated to the same topic.
In my capacity as Chairperson-in-Office of the OSCE let me summarize our deliberations as follows:
There has been general concern that the crisis in and around Ukraine is having a negative impact on security and stability in the OSCE area and beyond.
The tragedy of lost lives and human suffering was deplored and serious concern was expressed about the human dimension of the crisis with more than 4000 dead, about 10’000 wounded and hundreds of thousands who have lost their homes or who have fled as a result of military action or unbearable living conditions.
The downing of flight MH17 and the tragic loss of life it brought about was a shock for all of us. The importance of a thorough and impartial investigation and the determination to bring to justice those responsible for this crime cannot be stressed enough. I commend Ukraine’s readiness to involve international expertise and I call upon all parties concerned to allow the ongoing international investigation led by the Netherlands to proceed without restrictions or interference.
I note that in the negotiations on a draft Ministerial declaration on the role of the OSCE in the crisis in and around Ukraine we have not been able to reach consensus by the 57 participating States on all issues. The negotiations and other exchanges of views during the Ministerial Council have illustrated that there are diverging assessments on the causes of the crisis. Many participating States held the view that
• the crisis is the result of the pressure of one participating State against another;
• the so-called referendum held in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol on 16 March 2014 was not authorized by Ukraine and therefore in contradiction with the Ukrainian constitution;
• the steps subsequently taken regarding the status of Crimea, including by the Russian Federation, are in breach of fundamental OSCE commitments, incompatible with international law and contradict the Helsinki Final Act;
• and that with reference to the responsibility of participating States to adhere to the Helsinki Declaration on Principles Guiding Relations between Participating States, the territorial integrity, political independence and unity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders must be respected.
Our deliberations have further shown that, recalling the founding principles of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, participating States emphasize their commitment to upholding all the principles enshrined in the 1975 Helsinki Final Act.
Serious concern was expressed that the challenges to, and violations of, the fundamental principles of the Helsinki Final Act have shaken the foundations of international order and security in our area and undermined inter-state relations, and that they run counter to the spirit of mutual respect and co-operation as defined in the Charter of Paris for a New Europe of 1990 and as reflected in all other OSCE documents to which we have agreed.
The violations of OSCE principles jeopardize the vision of a free, democratic, common and indivisible Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security community stretching from Vancouver to Vladivostok and rooted in agreed principles, shared commitments and common goals.
While participating States disagree on the root causes of the current crisis, they have noted with deep concern that the current crisis has been aggravated by the gradual erosion of trust and confidence among OSCE participating States. Failures by participating States to implement OSCE commitments have contributed to this erosion of trust. The need to pursue a comprehensive and co-operative approach to security, based on the OSCE norms, principles and commitments, has been widely recognized.
The participating States are united in the conviction that there is no military solution to this crisis and pledge their strong collective support to its peaceful settlement and to all efforts that are directed towards the resolution of this crisis by diplomatic means and through inclusive political dialogue.
The OSCE’s engagement in the Ukraine crisis has demonstrated the relevance of the Organization as a forum for inclusive dialogue and as a body that has the international standing and authority to respond jointly to critical situations. Participating States recognize that more needs to be done to reinvigorate the OSCE’s capacities to effectively guard its core principles and address existing and emerging security concerns. In the common search for a peaceful and sustainable political solution to the current crisis and for ways to overcome the broader crisis in European security, they remain committed to making the best use of the OSCE as a unique platform for confidence-building, co-operation and crisis response.
The important contributions made by the OSCE to reducing tensions and fostering peace in Ukraine and the OSCE’s swift response to the crisis through the effective use of its tools and mechanisms are widely acknowledged. All participating States welcome the deployment of the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine, which is an important means of monitoring and supporting the implementation of all OSCE principles and commitments and of assisting in the implementation of the Minsk Protocol and the Minsk Memorandum. They applaud the monitors for their important work, underline the need for them to have safe access throughout all of Ukraine, and stress the importance of maintaining their safety and security.
In my capacity as Chairperson-in-Office, I thank all participating States and Partners for Co-operation that have supported the SMM through the provision of resources and that stand ready to continue to provide sufficient financial contributions and qualified monitors to enable the SMM to fulfil its mandate throughout Ukraine.
In the same spirit, the deployment of OSCE observers to two Russian checkpoints on the Russian-Ukrainian border was welcomed as an important confidence-building measure. An expansion of the Observer Mission’s mandate was widely encouraged.
Participating States commend the work of the Trilateral Contact Group consisting of senior representatives of Ukraine, the Russian Federation and the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office as a platform for direct dialogue between the parties and highly value its contribution, in particular its facilitation of the signing of the Minsk Protocol and the Minsk Memorandum.
There was a general call from participating States on all sides to ensure full and comprehensive implementation of the Minsk arrangements as the relevant framework and reference point for steps towards de-escalation and peaceful settlement of the conflict in some regions of Donbas and to build on the progress achieved so far.
There is a shared commitment among participating States to offer further support of the OSCE for the continuation of an inclusive national dialogue in Ukraine that reflects the diversity of its society and includes representation from all parts of Ukraine, and the Ukrainian authorities have been encouraged to take advantage of this offer.
The support that the OSCE institutions have provided throughout the year was widely acknowledged and combined with an invitation to them to continue working with the Ukrainian authorities and with representatives of civil society.
Appreciation was expressed of the efforts by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly to make its specific contribution to establishing channels for inter-parliamentary dialogue.
Broad support was expressed for the renewed partnership between the Project Co-ordinator in Ukraine and the Ukrainian authorities, while many participating States also underlined the importance for Ukraine to implement its ambitious reform agenda.
The need for all sides to continue effective cooperation with the OSCE in close co-ordination with other relevant international and regional organizations engaged in efforts to re-establish peace and stability in Ukraine was repeatedly stressed.
The OSCE engagement in Ukraine has amply demonstrated that the Organization remains an appropriate format for addressing current security challenges and has underscored the critical importance of its role as a forum for inclusive dialogue and joint action, particularly in times of crisis. In this context, my call to engage in a process of lessons learned from the current crisis in and around Ukraine in order to further strengthen the OSCE’s capacity to act has been supported by many States.
Today’s discussion also touched upon other existing conflicts in the OSCE area and showed the urgency of advancing solutions for the them through established formats.
Regarding the Transdniestrian conflict, the participating States reiterated their strong resolve to attain a comprehensive settlement based on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova with special status for Transdniestria that fully guarantees the human, political, economic, and social rights of its population. In a Ministerial statement, the sides were encouraged to increase the continuity and effectiveness of the settlement process and to agree on an annual calendar for the negotiations in the 5+2 format. The important role the OSCE plays in supporting this process is thereby reconfirmed.
Regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, 2014 was a particularly violent year with more than 50 deaths and daily violations of the ceasefire agreement. The Swiss Chairmanship welcomes today’s Joint Statement by the co-chairing countries of the Minsk Group, the Russian Federation, the United States and France, and supports their appeal to Azerbaijan and Armenia to reinforce the ceasefire and to enter into negotiations on a comprehensive peace agreement as soon as possible.
With regard to the conflict in Georgia, the OSCE participating States have not been able to agree on a Ministerial Declaration since the war in 2008. The overall political climate and considerable disagreement on substantive issues, including so-called treaties recently concluded in the region, made it also impossible to adopt such a declaration today.
Lastly, concerning the need to address the broader crisis of European security, we had a good exchange of views on the way forward during the Plenary Session. We also had constructive and inspiring informal discussions on this issue during the working lunch today where broad support was expressed for the Panel of Eminent Persons on European Security as a Common Project. Launched by the Swiss Chairmanship, in close cooperation with Serbia and Germany, this independent Panel is designed to complement and support the efforts of the OSCE participating States to conduct an inclusive and constructive security dialogue across the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian regions.
The Panel is expected to come up with proposals on how to rebuild trust, re-establish respect for the Helsinki Principles and improve implementation of the OSCE commitments, and quite generally how to reconsolidate European security as a common project. There has been broad agreement that the Panel should seek input from participating States, OSCE institutions and structures, multilateral actors covering European security issues, think tanks, and other relevant actors, including civil society.
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