Tag Archives: conflict

Ukraine conflict – the main issue on the 21st OSCE Ministerial Council agenda

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.

1073303The 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)

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.

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The ‘Putin Plan’ for settling the conflict in Ukraine

Vladimir Putin outlined the plan while speaking with journalists at the end of his working visit to Mongolia.

Putin_Mongolia_briefing_pressAccording the Russian official presidential site, in order to stop the bloodshed and stabilise the situation in southeast Ukraine, Vladimir Putin believes that the parties to the conflict should immediately agree on and coordinate the following steps:

1. End active offensive operations by armed forces, armed units and militia groups in southeast Ukraine in the Donetsk and Lugansk areas.

2. Withdraw Ukrainian armed forces units to a distance that would make it impossible to fire on populated areas using artillery and all types of multiple launch rocket systems.

3. Allow for full and objective international monitoring of compliance with the ceasefire and monitoring of the situation in the safe zone created by the ceasefire.

4. Exclude all use of military aircraft against civilians and populated areas in the conflict zone.

5. Organize the exchange of individuals detained by force on an ‘all for all’ basis without any preconditions.

6. Open humanitarian corridors for refugees and for delivering humanitarian cargoes to towns and populated areas in Donbass – Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

7. Make it possible for repair brigades to come to damaged settlements in the Donbass region in order to repair and rebuild social facilities and life-supporting infrastructure and help the region to prepare for the winter.

PS: Clearly, today and tomorrow the Western leaders are busy with the NATO Summit.  After the Summit works – from which is sure that will not comes a miraculous solution – is possible to take a view over the plan presented by Putin.

Syria and «assadization» of G20

After he canceled bilateral talks with Russian counterpart (and remained with two days off on the presidential agenda), Barack Obama seems to be very interested in relations with the Northern countries. So en route to G20 Summit (Sankt Petersburg, Russia), he is doing a stopover in Stockholm (Sweden), where the leader of the White House will meet with PM Fredrik Reinfeldt and King Carl XVI Gustav and will get dinner with leaders of the Northern countries from Western EuropeNorway, Iceland, Finland and Denmark.

This visit comes as a follow of last week, when Obama met in Washington with the heads of the Northern countries from Eastern Europe – Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. Of course, from discussions in Washington did not miss the conflict in Syria, as it probably will not miss to the meetings in Stockholm, although on the official agenda we can to find: the challenges arising by climate change (it is known that the northern European states are on the top list of the ‘greenest countries’ in the world!), regional security and development of bilateral trade. I don’t know which are the final results (in the medium and long term) connected with this new diplomatic approach and the strategic vision of Washington regarding  the Northern states. However, (in the short term) Obama seems trying to prepare for his diplomatic offensive at the G20 Summit.

782290660Assad’s fate will warm up the atmosphere of the meeting in the northern and cold capital of Russia, St. Petersburg, where Obama – willing or not – will meet with the “repudiated” leader of Russia, Vladimir Putin; also with the leader of China, Xi Jinping; the both countries actively oppose to the foreign intervention in Syria, but also Obama will meet with David Cameron, British Prime Minister, who washed his hands like Pontius Pilate, and passed the decision to support military intervention in Syria to the British Parliament, parliament which, despite arguments delivered for several hours by the chief of executive in London, gave negative vote.

If on these three cases things seem somewhat clear (though American leader has provided a bilateral meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping) and extraordinary changes are difficult to predict (except if Obama will “pleasantly” surprise the Kremlin leader and will put on the table of world heavyweight undeniable evidence that incriminates the Assad regime), however, the U.S. leader has the chance even to keep solidarity of France and Germany ( in last case only one rather declarative and quite elusive). And to obtain declarative consent of other leaders – argument can be put forward to the United Nations. Well, I say keep because president Hollande has just spoke yesterday that he could ask the French parliament, a declaration that, associated with the deprivation of principal ally, Great Britain and the step back made by Obama himself who will request advisory agreement of US Congress, seems rather a step in retreat. Germany, which is in full Bundestag election campaign, most likely will still choose a moderate way and will try to be as low voice on this issue.

When hosting an international event of such importance, Russia knows every time to catch a large part of the benefits in terms of image and external perceptions, and it is easy to predict that this time will not be different. Regard the signals from the Kremlin, Barack Obama is right to expect an offensive campaign of the Russian leader, who recently, slightly ironical, said that “was surprised” that the Western community no longer runs “without comment” everything that Washington decides. Last public appearances of Vladimir Putin (including Channel One Russia tv & AP interview in the preamble G20 Summit that was published today) shows that (even if regarding domestic policy, things not look pretty good) when is about foreign policy, Russian president feels excellent in his skin and knows that he is not an opponent easy to overcome. Most likely Putin will try to convince the leaders attending to the Summit that by sending in ridiculous a conference where the both sides of the Syrian conflict to sit at the same table was a mistake and that a diplomatic solution is better than a military intervention against Assad (however limited it may be), with small chances of removing the Syrian leader from power but with big chances of turning into a regional conflict.

Even if on the official agenda of the 8-th meeting of the G20 is not found Syrian issue, it certainly will dominate the formal&informal discussions to the detriment fo economic priorities. Which also are not few, and are not unimportant (but we’re talking about in the coming days). Leaders of emerging economies have already a list with the important topics that they would like/need to be addressed, and political saturation of event can be rather counterproductive for both leaders, of the Kremlin and the White House. We will see whether the two leaders will be able to avoid as a major economic summit –  with (uncommon but necessary) a major political stake – to become a battle of vanities with null result or not.

Published by PPW partner – Eurasia Review