The crisis in Ukraine was putting shared values to the test, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Chairperson-in-Office told the Security Council today, while stressing that further dialogue and political will were needed to solve the situation.
Delivering the annual briefing to the Council, Chairperson-in-Office Angelino Alfano, also Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy, said that a crisis of mutual trust and confidence had been faced regarding the situation in Ukraine. There was only one way to rebuild that trust, and that was to build dialogue and take concrete actions on the ground. The OSCE expected new steps to be taken for the implementation of the Minsk Agreements. It had deployed a Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, which was essential in preventing a dangerous escalation of the crisis.
In addition to Ukraine, the intergovernmental organization focused on protracted conflicts in Georgia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Transnistria. On Georgia, he supported the Geneva International Discussions and various informal initiatives, while on Nagorno‑Karabakh he supported the work of the Minsk Group Co-Chairs. Regarding Transnistria, the positive momentum already achieved needed to be maintained.
No nation was ever secure in isolation, he said, noting that Member States had a responsibility for one another’s security. That security would only be achieved when it was recognized that everyone was part of the same human race, and the defence of human dignity was essential to liberty. That value, he said, was shared by the United Nations and OSCE.
The representative of the Russian Federation said that some Member States still saw his country as a threat to peace and security, thinking in cold war terms. On Ukraine, he said that it was a domestic crisis that had started with the direct involvement of the West and a coup d’etat. Ukraine, meanwhile, had promoted the hatred of the Russian Federation, a move that had been fully endorsed by Western partners. The key to changing the problem was in the hands of Ukrainians, not in blaming Russian aggression. While the Security Council had enshrined the Minsk Agreements as the basis for any solution to the situation in eastern Ukraine, Kyiv was sabotaging that process, he said.
Annika Söder, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, underscored that, four years after the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol, which was a blatant violation of the principles of the United Nations Charter, her country was committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Those principles needed to be restored, she emphasized, noting that the establishment of any United Nations mission there should have as its goal the restoration of that sovereignty.
The representative of the United Kingdom reiterated his nation’s support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, noting that February had marked the fourth anniversary of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. That had occurred in complete violation of the United Nations Charter and international law, he said. In addition, if Russia cared about the people of Donbas in eastern Ukraine, it needed to put a halt to the fighting it started there.
Echoing those words, Poland’s delegate raised the issue of aggression on the part of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, noting that it remained one of the core challenges facing OSCE. She also emphasized that, in the face of emerging challenges in the whole of the work of OSCE, “we have to stand united in combating the phenomena of racism, xenophobia and intolerance.” The representative of Kazakhstan agreed with the priority of seeking a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Ukraine based on the Minsk Agreements. Looking broadly at the work of OSCE, he welcomed initiatives to open new field missions, noting that as security challenges evolved, United Nations-OSCE cooperation needed to deepen alongside them.
Also speaking today were representatives of Bolivia, France, Kuwait, Equatorial Guinea, Peru, Côte d'Ivoire, United States, Ethiopia, China and the Netherlands.
The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 4:43 p.m.
ANGELINO ALFANO, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy and Chairperson-in-Office for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), said his intergovernmental organization was the most inclusive multiregional platform in the world. All OSCE States had equal participatory rights. The absence of a rigid legal structure allowed it to respond to breaking political events. Consensus was a strength for that organization, he said, as the search for a common denominator had reinforced the sense of an OSCE community. No nation was ever secure in isolation, and there was a shared responsibility for one another’s security. The principle of comprehensive security guided the work of OSCE. He also believed in the its ability to work with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), United Nations and the European Union. The motto of his chairmanship was “dialogue, ownership, responsibility”. He believed that those were the essential ingredients for further strengthening multilateralism. The OSCE wanted to use an approach that looked equally at the Euro-Mediterranean, Euro-Atlantic and Euro-Asian regions and their linkages, that was open and transparent, and was firm on principles but creative on the ways to defend those values.
The crisis in Ukraine was testing the core shared values, and a crisis of mutual trust and confidence had been faced, he said. To rebuild trust, there was only one way: more dialogue, more political will and more concrete action on the ground. That was why his first mission as Chairman-in-Office was to Kyiv, Moscow and Donbass. He wanted to send a clear message, and that OSCE expected new steps to be taken for the implementation of the Minsk Agreements. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine had been a success, and it was a crucial instrument to avoiding a dangerous escalation of the crisis, despite difficult conditions. He placed the highest priority on the safety of the monitors, who should be able to carry out their work without risk. He also noted the acknowledgement by Ukraine and the Russian Federation of the need for a United Nations support mission.
Beyond the crisis in Ukraine, OSCE was focusing on so-called protracted conflicts, he said. Regarding Georgia, he supported the Geneva International Discussions and was ready to promote dialogue through informal initiatives, as well. On Nagorno-Karabakh, he continued to support the work of the Minsk Group Co-Chairs for a definitive and shared solution. In Transnistria, the positive momentum needed to be built upon. In 2017, in the framework of OSCE, the Mediterranean Conference of Palermo was organized.
The OSCE was also dedicating attention to transnational threats, such as terrorism, radicalization, illicit trafficking of arms, drugs, cultural goods and hazardous waste; the links between terrorism and organized crime; international money laundering; and the sources of funding of terrorist groups. Cybersecurity was another priority. It was promoting initiatives to increase awareness of decision makers and the private sector on how the Internet could impact peace and security. Much more needed to be done to put terrorism “offline”, he said.
He also underscored the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment. At the United Nations, OSCE had emphasized the fundamental role of women in conflict prevention and resolution, and had established a Mediterranean Women Mediators Network. The fight against all forms of intolerance and discrimination was another priority for his Chairmanship. Security would only be achieved when it was recognized that everyone was part of the same human race. Defending human dignity was essential to our liberty, and that was a rooted value both at the United Nations and at OSCE.
ANNIKA SÖDER, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, agreed that there was clear potential for greater cooperation between the United Nations and OSCE, particularly in the search for solutions to conflicts in Europe. Closer cooperation could enhance the strength and effectiveness of both organizations, she said, adding that OSCE’s core work — frank and open dialogue between participating States, aimed at restoring respect for common agreed principles and commitments — was enshrined in such documents as the Helsinki Final Act and the Paris Charter. “It is essential that the comprehensive concept of security and the OSCE’s role is upheld,” she stressed. Four years after the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol — the most blatant violation of the United Nations Charter’s principles and purposes since the end of the cold war — Sweden remained committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Any potential United Nations mission there should have as its objective the restoration of those principles, she said, also voicing concern about protracted conflicts in Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Nagorno-Karabakh.
MAIRA MARIELA MACDONAL ÁLVAREZ (Bolivia) welcomed the priorities of Italy’s 2018 OSCE Chairmanship, which included inclusive rapprochement that took into account cultural diversity, aimed to combat all forms of intolerance and sought to strengthened multilateralism. Conflicts between States should first be addressed internally, in strict compliance with international law. However, there was often an opportunity to engage in preventive diplomacy. Voicing support for Italy’s intention to promote an exchange of knowledge and best practices among States, particularly those involved in ongoing conflicts in Europe, she also welcomed work to combat on transnational threats and to prevent radicalization and violent extremism. Such efforts should always respect human rights and seek to tackle the root causes of those phenomena. Finally, she spotlighted the importance of respecting the principles enshrined in the 2000 Convention against Transnational Organized Crime — known as the Palermo Convention — as well as its relevant protocols aimed at protecting migrants.
ANNE GUEGUEN (France) said the crisis in Ukraine constituted among the most serious and dangerous violation of OSCE’s founding principles, as well as the Helsinki Final Act and the United Nations Charter. France, along with Germany, was determined to pursue mediation efforts under the auspices of the Normandy Format, and there had already been a prisoner exchange between Ukraine and the separatists. The OSCE, through its Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, had a key role to play, and condemned any attempts to restrict the movement and activities of the Mission’s observers. Ukraine must be able to retake control of all its internationally recognized borders, she stressed. The increasing number of threats facing Europe meant OSCE members should abandon individual postures and focus on: the resolution of regional conflicts, especially frozen and protracted ones; preserving and building on arms control treaties and confidence-building measures, and adapting them to modern realities; and preserving and further developing OSCE’s human dimension. Citing such emerging challenges as radicalization, human trafficking and the effects of climate change, she said OSCE and the United Nations shared many identical values in those areas, and called on the two organizations to work together more closely.
BADER ABDULLAH N. M. ALMUNAYEKH (Kuwait) said the continued annual briefing from OSCE was a praiseworthy matter that confirmed its commitment to work with the United Nations to maintain international peace and security. The increase in the number of conflicts faced by the United Nations meant that the support of regional and subregional organizations was needed, in accordance with chapter 8 of the United Nations Charter. Those organizations were the most qualified to understand what took place in some conflict situations. Arab States shared the concerns of OSCE, particularly those Arab States along the Mediterranean. Those concerns included migration, terrorism, counter-terrorism, international organized crime, xenophobia and other issues. Violent extremism was not limited to any race or culture. That fact invited the multiplication of efforts to overcome those challenges, and Kuwait was keen to increase the effectiveness of cooperation in combating violent extremism.
YERKIN AKHINZHANOV (Kazakhstan) encouraged OSCE to further develop its preventive tool box to tackle existing conflicts and growing challenges, including terrorism, radicalization, human trafficking and the uncontrolled influx of migrants. Agreeing with the priority of seeking a peaceful resolution of the Ukraine conflict based on the Minsk Agreements, he reiterated Kazakhstan’s support for OSCE monitoring activities. Commending other efforts, including in the Republic of Moldova, he supported the implementation of relevant resolutions, adding that the Munich Security Conference in February had shown the need for dialogue and a more cooperative approach. Welcoming OSCE initiatives to open new field missions, he commended efforts to cooperate with partners within and outside the region. As security challenges continued to evolve, United Nations-OSCE cooperation must deepen.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) said the global context in which international peace and security were maintained was complex. Those complexities went beyond armed groups, organized crime, the movement of people and other matters, and made it difficult to find sustainable solutions to guarantee peace and security for all. As such, his country applauded the programme set forth by the Chairperson-in-Office. Cooperation between OSCE and the United Nations should be strengthened. His country encouraged greater collaboration between OSCE and regional and subregional groups in Africa. The priorities of OSCE were focused on bringing about a peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine, as well as tackling protracted conflicts through existing formats. Those latter conflicts led to economic and social instability that then fuelled terrorist groups and organized crime.
GUSTAVO MESA-CUADRA (Peru) said it was important to promote synergies between organizations to prevent conflict, and there were areas where OSCE played an essential role in promoting international peace and security. Security and its corresponding norms saw security and human rights as two sides of the same coin, and collective action must grapple with modern challenges and threats. Diversity should be seen as a value not a threat, and in that regard, he applauded the spirit of Palermo in the protection of victims of humanitarian crises and trafficking. Regarding the leadership of OSCE in fighting terrorism and organized crime, he agreed with its assessment of the importance of identifying the nexus between those two to combat them effectively.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) echoed support for the idea of relaunching the “spirit of Helsinki”, as well as OSCE’s 2018 priorities related to seeking a solution to the conflict in Ukraine; addressing protracted conflicts; combating discrimination and intolerance; and advancing inter-religious dialogue. Unfortunately, aggression on the part of the Russian Federation against Ukraine remained one of OSCE’s core challenges, she said, warning that the illegal occupation of Crimea and the use of force in and around Donbas could not be allowed to become a precedent. Poland, as one of the largest contributors to the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, stressed that that operation must be allowed to fully carry out its mandate and condemned all attacks against its monitors. Noting that Warsaw was home to OSCE’s autonomous Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, she went called for renewed efforts to rebuild trust and confidence in Europe and voiced concern over efforts by the Russian Federation to erode existing instruments in that arena. In the face of emerging challenges, she concluded, “we have to stand united in combating the phenomena of racism, xenophobia and intolerance” and address the ill-understood issue of nationalism.
BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d’Ivoire) said important work on the part of OSCE, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and similar groups demonstrated the importance of regional organization in both the resolution of conflict and preventive diplomacy. Welcoming conflict-resolution efforts in Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh — as well as long-standing attempts to bring about peace in Georgia, stabilize the situation in Kosovo and implement the Minsk Agreements in eastern Ukraine — he called for bolstered cooperation between the United Nations and OSCE, describing the latter as one of the worlds’ most significant collective security organizations. He also voiced support for the Chairperson-in-Office’s decision to take a proactive approach to OSCE’s three dimensions — politico-military work, economic and environmental efforts, and the human dimension — and welcomed the focus on addressing emerging challenges, such as radicalization and cybercrime.
ELAINE MARIE FRENCH (United States) said she appreciated OSCE’s 40 years of contribution, and strongly supported the continuation of that organization’s dialogue on future challenges and risks. Among the greatest challenges it faced was the crisis in eastern Ukraine, where aggression by the Russian Federation had claimed thousands of lives. She commended OSCE’s efforts to end the conflict in Ukraine, which had taken a toll on that country’s people. That the Russian Federation was a member of OSCE and also continued to drive the conflict in Ukraine was a terrible irony, she said. She applauded the courage and dedication of the Monitoring Mission and strongly supported the need to support their safety. Her country also continued to support the Minsk Agreements as the best path to ensure Ukraine’s territorial integrity. On Crimea, she called to an end to the Russian Federation’s occupation, which had led to displacement and death for too long. The OSCE should also continue to focus on protracted conflicts that were counterproductive to peace and security.
MAHLET HAILU (Ethiopia) said OSCE’s comprehensive approach to security aligned with the new global paradigm towards ensuring sustainable peace and development. The OSCE played an important role in the region to, among other things, resolve protracted and new conflicts. Dialogue and negotiation remained the only way to find a durable political and diplomatic solution, which must be accompanied by political will and commitment by the parties involved. Like regions worldwide, terrorism and violent extremism posed growing threats in Europe and OSCE was addressing concerns by promoting a holistic approach. Partnering with other relevant regional and international actors was also important, he said, highlighting his delegation’s appreciation of the OSCE-United Nations partnership.
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) said his country fully supported OSCE, which, like the United Nations, was a pillar of the international rules-based system. Respect for its fundamental principles must be restored. Emphasizing his country’s full support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, including in Crimea, he recalled last month’s fourth anniversary of the Russian Federation’s illegal annexation of Crimea in complete disregard of the United Nations Charter and international law. Russia had also destabilized eastern Ukraine, fuelling the conflict there, with civilians suffering the most. Only through a genuine ceasefire and political will would the conflict end. He said the Special Monitoring Mission must be permitted to carry out its mandate in full, with unhindered access to all areas, and that increasingly aggressive behaviour and threats towards its personnel were deeply disturbing. He went on to say that if Russia cared about the people of Donbas, as it claimed, then it should end the fighting that it started there. Until that happened, the United Kingdom would work with its European Union partners to keep sanctions in place.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), affirming his country’s commitment to the Helsinki principles, said that some Member States were still thinking in cold war terms, viewing his country as a threat to peace and security, seriously testing the Euro-Atlantic architecture. The OSCE was called upon to implement a range of United Nations principles and Russia wanted to actively cooperate with its Chairperson-in-Office in that regard. He said his country expected a lot from cooperation between the United Nations and OSCE in such areas as combating the drugs trade, organized crime, terrorism, corruption, human trafficking, illegal migration and information security. Russia was also prepared to cooperate regarding Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh.
He said his delegation did not intend to discuss the situation in Ukraine outside the context of today’s debate, but some delegations had done so. It was a domestic crisis that started four years ago with the direct involvement of the West and a coup d’etat, he said, adding that Crimeans themselves had decided to accede to Russia. Donbas had determined its own fate, too. He said Ukraine had promoted hatred of Russians with the full endorsement of Western partners. The key to changing the problem in Ukraine was in the hands of Ukrainians, not in blaming Russian aggression for everything. Security Council resolution 2202 (2015) had enshrined the Minsk Agreements as the basis for resolving the situation in eastern Ukraine, but Kyiv had sought to sabotage that process. So long as that continued, no lasting settlement could be expected.
WU HAITAO (China), emphasizing that global issues required global solutions, said regional and subregional organizations had unique advantages in resolving regional flashpoint issues. The OSCE was an important partner of the United Nations, actively conducting preventative diplomacy. China supported practical and effective cooperation between the Security Council and OSCE. It welcomed all positive efforts towards a peaceful resolution of the Ukrainian issue and hoped that all parties concerned could implement relevant Council resolutions and the Minsk Agreements. At the same time, the international community must also support diplomatic efforts to bring about peace, stability and development in Ukraine at an early date, he said.
KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands), Council President for March, spoke in his national capacity, emphasizing the important roles played by OSCE. The organization was central in early warning, conflict prevention and resolution in the region, and played a crucial role in the quest for peaceful settlements to protracted conflicts in Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Azerbaijan. In addition, it provided a unique platform for dialogue to promote peaceful resolutions to conflicts, with its comprehensive security approach. Turning to eastern Ukraine, he said the ongoing foreign interference there constituted a serious violation of OSCE’s founding principles. Calling upon all parties involved to implement the Minsk Agreements, he said effort should begin with the withdrawal of heavy weapons and a sustainable ceasefire. The OSCE’s role was crucial, including in the Special Monitoring Mission, which must be permitted to conduct its work without impediments. Any obstruction to the Mission’s work or threats against its staff were unacceptable and must stop immediately.