Delegates Say Non-Interference, Territorial Integrity of States Important
Preventing and resolving conflicts is the top priority for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), its Chairperson-in-Office told the Security Council today, as he outlined actions to decrease tensions in Ukraine, Transnistria, Georgia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
Miroslav Lajčák, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia, which holds the rotating Chairmanship for 2019, said Ukraine’s people feel hopeless and abandoned because commitments to resolve the crisis are not being upheld. He aims to advance a proposal to repair a damaged bridge in Luhansk, which serves as the only open entry-exit point. OSCE is also ready to engage on any Council proposals for a new United Nations mission in Ukraine.
To resolve the Transnistrian Settlement Process, he advocated progress on the “package of eight” measures, with next steps focused on public transport and telecommunications. OSCE is prepared to host a “5+2” meeting in Bratislava, depending on events following parliamentary elections. In Georgia, he called for the reopening of crossing points, and in Nagorno-Karabakh, creating more positive momentum. Having recently visited Azerbaijan, he will visit Armenia the week of 11 March, with trips to the Western Balkans and Central Asia also on the books.
As the world’s largest security organization, OSCE is committed to supporting the United Nations global mandate at the regional level. “I believe that we need to continue working together,” he said, perhaps more so than today. “The stakes are quite high.”
In the ensuing debate, delegates agreed that the security landscape has changed since the founding of both institutions, with several echoing the Chair’s priorities and reiterating their commitment to effective multilateralism. Many underlined the importance of non-interference, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
In that context, the representative of the United States remarked that five years had passed since the Russian Federation’s illegal occupation of Crimea and instigation of conflict in eastern Ukraine, while Poland’s delegate decried Moscow’s unjustifiable use of military force there. Belgium’s delegate urged parties to allow the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission safe and unhampered access to the entire country. Like others, the United Kingdom’s representative encouraged adherence to the Minsk agreements.
The representative of France, Council president for March, spoke in his national capacity to note that OSCE facilitates dialogue as part of the Trilateral Contact Group, where discussions are currently deadlocked. There is a need for recommitment, notably by the Russian Federation and the groups it supports.
On that point, the representative of the Russian Federation thanked the Special Monitoring Mission for its “frank” analysis that there is no evidence of his country’s military presence in Ukraine’s Donbas region. While the statements made today might give the impression that OSCE only considers the situation in eastern Ukraine, in fact, it works to build peace for 1 billion people. Indeed, depoliticized conversations are needed.
Also speaking today were representatives of Indonesia, China, Côte d'Ivoire, South Africa, Dominican Republic, Peru, Kuwait, Equatorial Guinea and Germany.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 11:53 a.m.
MIROSLAV LAJČÁK, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia, speaking in his capacity as Chairperson-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), said that, as the world’s largest security organization under Chapter VIII of the Charter the United Nations, it is committed to supporting the United Nations global mandate at the regional level. His message today is simple: “I believe we need to continue working together”, he said, perhaps more so than today. “The stakes are quite high.”
He turned first to preventing and resolving conflict, the top priority, describing events in and around Ukraine as “unacceptable”. There is no alternative to the Minsk agreements and he expressed strong support for both the Normandy format and the Trilateral Contact Group. In the Luhansk region, the elderly are forced to travel daily across the only open entry-exit point — a bridge on the line of contact in Stanytsia Luhanska damaged by the conflict. “They suffer, they feel hopeless, neglected and abandoned,” he said, because commitments are not upheld. OSCE has proposed measures, including repair of the bridge and humanitarian demining, which he hoped to bring forward in the coming months. OSCE is also ready to engage on any proposals or decisions from the Council regarding a new United Nations mission in Ukraine.
Turning next to the Transnistrian settlement process, he said that, during his trip to the Republic of Moldova in January, he stressed the need for progress on the “package of eight” measures, with next steps focusing on public transport and telecommunications. OSCE is prepared to host a “5+2” meeting in Bratislava, depending on developments following recent parliamentary elections, which were perhaps the most important in modern history. The OSCE international observation mission has issued a statement of preliminary findings about their conduct. In Georgia, where OSCE Chairmanship is committed to the Geneva international discussions and the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism, he underscored the need to reopen crossing points, whose ongoing closure limits access to health care for the population.
In Nagorno-Karabakh, he underscored the need for more positive developments, noting that during his recent trip to Azerbaijan, he welcomed intensified talks and a reduction in ceasefire violations, while having encouraged economic progress and human rights guarantees. He will travel to Armenia the week of 11 March, with future trips to the Western Balkans and Central Asia on the books. On all such trips, OSCE aims to open new space for dialogue and practically address challenges “right on the spot”. While there is much debate over what to call these conflicts — frozen, protracted or dark spots — “they have gone on for far too long”.
More broadly, he said OSCE and the United Nations channel power through systems of agreed rules, principles and norms, giving everyone a stake in the running of international affairs. Today, both are learning to address issues their founders scarcely could have imagined — from climate change to cyberterrorism to violent extremism — which is why OSCE chose the theme of “A Safer Future” as its second priority. The security landscape is changing and institutions must adapt. The United Nations took steps to tailor its agenda in 2016, when the Council adopted the “sustaining peace resolution”, removing the conditions in which conflict can flourish. “This means pooling our capacities, in the areas of sustainable development, institution building, rule of law and good governance,” he said, which is aligned to the OSCE approach to security. In that context, he welcomed the memorandum of understanding signed by OSCE and the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism, also citing common support for women peacebuilders.
Going forward, he said there are many opportunities for cooperation, especially on the youth, peace and security agenda, as resolutions 2250 (2015) and 2419 (2018) are implemented. But, to make progress, “we must band together,” he said, underscoring the importance of effective multilateralism. The spectrum of the challenges ahead is global — climate change, which particularly affects the most vulnerable societies; poverty and hunger, which can fuel migration; and growing inequalities, which can fuel flames of conflict and radicalization — and completely resistant to unilateral solutions. Working together, through multilateral platforms, is the only choice.
Against that backdrop, he welcomed the strong cooperation between OSCE and United Nations entities, particularly in Vienna, where there are crucial projects taking place, while his organization’s field missions have benefitted from United Nations expertise. OSCE has much to learn from closer United Nations engagement, including operational readiness, capacities and capabilities at various stages of the conflict cycle. It also has much to give, from tailored regional knowledge to lessons learned from the ground. “We are willing to do our part,” he said, noting that he has invited the Secretary-General to various OSCE events in 2019.
STEPHEN HICKEY (United Kingdom) drew attention to the plight of the people of Ukraine, who acutely feel global security challenges. Voicing support for that country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, he spotlighted “persistent disregard for international law” at the hands of a permanent Council member, recalling that the Russian Federation continues to disregard the terms of the Helsinki Final Act and the Charter of the United Nations by fuelling the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Since 2014, nearly 10,000 people have died there and more than 3 million are now in need of aid. However, humanitarian access remains restricted. Expressing support for the Minsk agreements and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, he said all parties should respect the latter’s work on the ground. Turning to other matters, he welcomed OSCE plans to focus on human trafficking supply chains, as well as its inclusive, whole-of-society approach to counter-terrorism. Among other things, he welcomed OSCE efforts to enhance media freedom and voiced support for the drafting of a resolution on protracted conflicts in the region.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) expressed support for the emphasis areas outlined by the OSCE Chair, and reiterated his delegation’s “unshakable belief in the virtue of multilateralism” in finding solutions to global challenges. Describing the United Nations itself as a manifestation of multilateralism, he underlined the importance of the fundamental principles of non-interference, sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as the obligation of each Member State to respect them. “It is equally essential that everyone respect the principle of no threat or use of force in the resolution of conflict,” he stressed, emphasizing that political will must be nurtured through sustained dialogue, mutual respect and credible peace efforts. Noting that assistance to conflict-affected countries should be guided by each nation’s identified priorities, he also underlined the pivotal role of regional arrangements and said the United Nations should work to profit more meaningfully from the efforts of such regional entities.
YAO SHAOJUN (China) said the global landscape currently features a high degree of uncertainty, with unilateralism and protectionism on the rise. “The world needs multilateralism more than ever,” he stressed, describing the Council as a core multilateral instrument. Regional and subregional cooperation are essential and should seek to actively promote preventive diplomacy and defuse tensions, he said, noting that it must always be conducted in line with the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in States’ domestic affairs. Welcoming efforts towards a peaceful resolution of the situation in eastern Ukraine, he said the parties should adhere to the Minsk agreements and continue to engage in consultations and peaceful dialogue.
KACOU HOUADJA LÉON ADOM (Côte d’Ivoire), stressing that transnational threats require pooled efforts at the regional and subregional level, welcomed the holistic approach of OSCE to peace and security which incorporates political, military, economic, environmental and human dimensions and addresses such crucial issues as human rights and weapons management. He encouraged OSCE to work unfailingly to encourage the parties in eastern Ukraine to engage in dialogue, while promoting the return of trust, peace and stability. Calling for additional efforts to promote peace and security in Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria and Georgia — and for enhanced stability in Kosovo — he also emphasized that security dynamics in sub-Saharan Africa have an impact on peace and security in Europe. In that context, he voiced support for strengthened cooperation between OSCE and regional and subregional organizations on the continent.
JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa), reiterating that the United Nations and regional organizations must cooperate and coordinate regarding Chapter VIII of the Charter, said each regional entity is unique in terms of the challenges they face. As such, their relevant efforts must not absolve the United Nations of its Charter-mandated responsibilities as the guardian of international peace and security. Expressing support for the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, he also said relevant role players must create a conducive environment towards compromise, reconciliation and long-term stability in Kosovo. As these initiatives will prove invaluable for the populations and the greater region, the Security Council, regional bodies, international partners and other actors, including donors, civil society and youth groups, must continue to engage in dialogue and cooperation.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) said that the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine remains the most important topic on the agenda of OSCE. “Russia’s unjustifiable use of military force against the Ukrainian vessels that led to unilateral control over the Kerch Strait is not forgotten,” she added. The impediments put by Moscow on the ships passing through the Strait have already caused major damage to the socioeconomic situation in Ukraine. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine must have unhindered access to the entire conflict‑affected areas of the country. She also commended Mr. Lajčák’s work regarding the protracted conflicts in Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Nagorno-Karabakh. She called on the Russian Federation to implement the European Union-brokered six‑point ceasefire agreement, agreed on 12 August 2008, that ended the conflicts in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia. Poland opposes any attempts to weaken the OSCE human dimension relevance and urges the full participation of women in the political and public arenas, she added.
JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States) applauded OSCE for developing a robust regional security architecture since 1975, stressing that as a pillar of the international rules‑based system, its role must be upheld. Nowhere is its comprehensive approach to security more important than in Ukraine. February marked the fifth anniversary of the Russian Federation’s illegal occupation in that country, which began in 2014. Recalling that the Russian Federation attacked Ukraine’s naval vessels in November 2018, he condemned that unjustified use of force and called on Moscow to return detainees and seized ships. He expressed support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity along internationally recognized borders, stressing that the United States will not recognize the Russian Federation’s purported annexation of Crimea. United States sanctions will be in place until the Russian Federation upholds its commitments under the Minsk agreements. The United States also opposes the Russian Federation’s occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which are part of Georgia and which violate that country’s sovereignty. While the Russian Federation participates in the “5+2” format, it has failed to withdraw its forces from the Republic of Moldova, slowing the rules-based order.
JOSE MANUEL TRULLOLS (Dominican Republic) welcomed that OSCE priorities aligned with those of the United Nations: conflict prevention, mediation and mitigation, with a focus on those affected. Recognizing the need to make progress in eastern Ukraine, he stressed the importance of implementing the Minsk agreements and reiterated support for that country’s territorial integrity. The Special Monitoring Mission continues to “take the temperature” on the ground, he said, more broadly welcoming OSCE efforts to resolve situations in Nagorno‑Karabakh and Transnistria, and stressing that attention to protracted conflicts must be maintained. The United Nations work with regional organizations can help mitigate conflict. Noting that OSCE must resolve security situations with the support of parties involved, he advocated greater participation for women in public and political life, notably in preventing and managing conflicts, as well as involving young people in cooperation. Inclusive youth policies must be bolstered.
MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium), expressing support for OSCE priorities, said the situation in Ukraine violated its founding principles and those of the United Nations. He welcomed OSCE efforts to prevent escalation, notably through its Special Monitoring Mission — which acts as both an observer and a facilitator of dialogue. He deplored obstacles to its proper monitoring and reporting functions, urging parties to respect its mandate and allow it safe, unhampered access to the entire country, including Crimea and the border with the Russian Federation. He called for a lasting political solution based on respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity, calling implementation of the Minsk agreements essential in that regard. Expressing concern over attacks on human rights defenders and journalists and more general intolerance in areas where OSCE is active, he said the law is indispensable to promoting comprehensive security. With terrorism and violent extremism among the most urgent transnational threats, he welcomed the memorandum of understanding between the United Nations and the Office of Counter-Terrorism.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) expressed support for strengthened synergies between the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations in preventing and responding to conflict, in line with Chapter VIII of the Charter. Noting that the Council has been studying, analysing and implementing a “sustainable peace” focus in its work, he said such efforts are closely aligned with the own priorities of OSCE and that much complementarity exists between the organizations. Today regional organizations are called to play a central role in implementing the international legal framework, he said, spotlighting the work of OSCE in fighting terrorism. Its mechanisms for monitoring and peaceful conflict resolution in Europe have been crucial, he added, welcoming the Special Monitoring Mission in eastern Ukraine in particular.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) welcomed the annual briefing by the OSCE Chair, noting that it is one of the largest and most important regional groupings. “This is an enormous added value when it comes to international peace and security and responding to the peace and security challenges the international community faces,” he said. While the United Nations plays the key role throughout a conflict cycle, the support of regional and subregional organizations remains critical. They are also at the front line of detection to help the international community better understand the nature of particular conflicts. Stressing that Europe is the theatre of conflicts that have lasted far too long and require international attention, he welcomed the role of OSCE in de-escalating tensions and supporting displaced persons. In that regard, he expressed hope that the parties in eastern Ukraine will implement Council resolution 2202 (2015), the Minsk agreements and other relevant agreements, and commit to ending the conflict as soon as possible.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said the foundations of multilateralism and international law are currently being “sorely tested”. OSCE should strive to implement the functions for which it was established, namely as a forum for collective dialogue. Calling for a resolution of the situation in Kosovo in line with resolution 1244 (1999), he also voiced support for depoliticized conversations on various other protracted situations in the region. The statements delivered today might give the impression that OSCE only considers the situation in eastern Ukraine, but, in fact, it has 57 member countries and works to build peace for more than 1 billion people. Expressing gratitude to the head of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission for his frank recent analysis that there is no evidence of a Russian Federation military presence in the Donbas region, he said no real settlement will be achieved if Kyiv continues to actively sabotage the Minsk agreements and to attack Moscow with full support from Western countries. Underlining the principle of inclusivity, he called for a swift conclusion of the conflict, warning against relying on “fragmented information” and instead calling for a comprehensive look at which parties are promoting the ongoing outbreaks of violence.
AMPARO MELE COLIFA (Equatorial Guineas) welcomed OSCE’s focus on people affected by crisis, providing a safer future and promoting effective multilateralism. Since the crisis in Ukraine is among its priorities, she said a solution can only be achieved through direct, open and inclusive negotiations, in full respect for the Minsk agreements. She voiced support for the Chair’s focus on so-called protracted conflicts affecting Europe and welcomed his recent visit to the Republic of Moldova as part of Slovakia’s focus on preventing and mediating conflicts. The role of OSCE in carrying out United Nations decisions must be bolstered for the benefit of international peace and security. On the eve of International Women’s Day, she encouraged the Chair to consider a gender focus, with a view to including women in mediating conflicts, and applauded OSCE efforts to peacefully resolve conflicts in full respect of agreements.
CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany) underlined the importance of strengthening partnership and coordination between OSCE and the United Nations, given the organizations’ shared values and common aim of implementing preventive diplomacy. Noting that the situation in Ukraine remains volatile and the humanitarian conditions dire, he emphasized the importance of upholding the Minsk process through the Normandy format and called on both sides to step up implementation efforts. Because the Special Monitoring Mission plays an indispensable role for establishing facts on the ground and facilitating dialogue, he called on both sides to ensure its free access and condemned targeting its patrols and assets. While expressing appreciation for ongoing efforts in the South Caucasus region, he remained concerned about a lack of progress regarding conflicts in Georgia. Recommending that further possibilities must be explored to reinvigorate the Geneva international discussions, he said a readiness for certain compromises is key to finding a solution in Nagorno-Karabakh. Welcoming positive developments in meetings on the Republic of Moldova, he encouraged all sides to continue taking small pragmatic steps and concrete measures towards resolving issues yet to be negotiated. More broadly, structured dialogue is a unique and valuable format to strengthen cooperative security, providing opportunities to focus on politico‑military issues, such as risk reduction and compliance with arms control arrangements.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), Council President for March, spoke in his national capacity to stress challenges to protection of effective multilateralism and civilians in conflict are shared priorities. He underscored the decisive role of OSCE in resolving the crisis in Ukraine, pointing to efforts by the Special Monitoring Mission to diminish tensions in the east, along the conflict line and in the area of conflict, and to foster adherence to the Minsk agreements. OSCE also facilitates dialogue as part of the Trilateral Contact Group, where discussions are currently deadlocked and there is need for recommitment, notably by the Russian Federation and the groups it supports. That recommitment can only be demonstration through political resolve. Parties must meet the expectations of civilians trapped in the conflict, an attitude that should also be seen in the Trilateral Contact Group and the Normandy format. The Russian Federation’s illegal annexation of Crimea violates Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders and is a source of tension in the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. He called for the release of detained sailors and return of the vessels seized. More broadly, he said all stakeholders in protracted conflicts should support OSCE mediation efforts, noting that only political resolve can lead to negotiations that will settle crises. Noting that France will be involved in mediating the Nagorno‑Karabakh situation, he said human rights must be respected by all States. He underscored the need for cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations, as well as for a convergence of efforts between OSCE and the United Nations, stressing that the two “secret weapons” of multilateralism are respect and dialogue.
Mr. LAJČÁK, in response, said he will provide written answers to the questions raised.
* The 8478th Meeting was closed.