The 21st OSCE Ministerial Council, gathering some 50 foreign ministers, will take place on 4 and 5 December 2014, at the Basel Exhibition Centre, in Basel, Switzerland at the invitation of the 2014 OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Switzerland’s Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter.
The Ministerial Council is the central decision-making and governing body of the OSCE. The meeting, held annually, provides foreign ministers and more than 70 delegations of OSCE participating States, partner countries and several international organizations an opportunity to review and assess the Organization’s activities during the past year and offer national viewpoints on security matters.
The foreign ministers were discussed the Ukraine crisis and common challenges within and beyond the OSCE area. The Council will set the course for the future work of the organization with Serbia taking the chair from 1 January.
It is essential to preserve the OSCE as a platform for inclusive discussions and as an effective responder despite divisions in Europe over the situation in Ukraine, said the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter in his opening address at the 21st OSCE Ministerial Council in Basel.
Opening session of the 21st OSCE Ministerial Council in Basel, 4 December 2014. (OSCE/FDFA/Béatrice Devènes)
Acknowledging the OSCE as a bridge which can be used by both sides, Burkhalter said that a strong OSCE would bring peace, stability and security for everyone living in the OSCE region. He said political leaders had a responsibility to ensure that Europe does not become a divided continent again 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Burkhalter described the situation in Ukraine as fragile. He called on all participating States to fully support the initiatives the OSCE has launched to de-escalate and normalise the situation in Ukraine, such as the Trilateral Contact Group negotiations and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine.
Notice that next round of Minsk talks may be held next week. The former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma who represents Kiev in the Contact Group told TASS reporters about the plans. The Minsk agreement is a basic document supported by the world, he said, noting that a positive result of the agreement was the fact that mass killing of people was stopped.
On September 20 in Minsk, the Contact Group on Ukraine signed a nine-point memorandum on a ceasefire. The OSCE monitors the compliance with the document, which was signed by OSCE envoy to Ukraine Heidi Tagliavini, former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma, Russian Ambassador to Kiev Mikhail Zurabov, Prime Minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic Alexander Zakharchenko and head of the Lugansk People’s Republic Igor Plotnitsky.
Swiss Foreign Minister added that Switzerland will support the Special Monitoring Mission with a further two million Swiss francs (1.7 million Euros), and remains committed to supporting the Mission beyond the Swiss Chairmanship of the OSCE.
The OSCE Parallel Civil Society Conference 2014, with a focus on tolerance and non-discrimination, concluded on 3 December at Hotel Pullman with outcomes being presented to the Chairperson-in-Office. Chairperson Burkhalter was held a press conference with incoming Chairperson, Serbia’s Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, where the civil society recommendations were presented by Civic Solidarity Platform members Yuri Dzhibladze and Izabela Kisic.
UPDATE: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry have supported the efforts of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) Mission to Ukraine, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Lavrov and Kerry also stressed the growing importance of soonest deescalation in Ukraine, the Russian Foreign Ministry added. It is necessary to make efforts to ensure lasting truce in Ukraine’s south-eastern regions, Lavrov said at a meeting with Kerry on the sidelines of a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of member states of the OSCE in Switzerland’s Basel. “Lavrov focused attention on the necessity of the fulfillment of the Minsk agreements, ensuring stable truce and continuation of direct dialogue between Kiev, Donetsk and Luhansk,” the ministry said.
The two foreign ministers also exchanged views on a number of pressing international and regional problems, including the situation in the Palestinian-Israeli settlement and prospects for the settlement of the intra-Syrian conflict.