On 6 December 2018, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Edgars Rinkēvičs, took part in the 25th Ministerial Council of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Milan, which included the exchange of views on the conflict in Ukraine. The meeting has been organised by the Italian OSCE Chairmanship.
In his remarks to those present, the Latvian Foreign Minister emphasised the OSCE’s role in dealing with the Ukrainian crisis and the need for compliance with OSCE fundamental principles and values; he also drew attention to current developments in the Sea of Azov and to OSCE humanitarian dimension.
“In November, we commemorated 100 years since the end of the First World War, pledging to never forget those who died in the trenches. Yet for five years, soldiers and civilians are again dying in Europe as a result of Russia’s blatant violation of Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity. Despite our efforts, despite the Minsk agreements and despite repeated calls for Russia to abide by the principles and commitments enshrined in Helsinki and Paris, no progress has been achieved so far. Even worse. Recent illegitimate “elections” in the so-called “Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics” further violate international and Ukrainian law, as well as the Minsk agreements. The recent provocation by Russia, which illegally opened fire and seized three Ukrainian navy vessels near the Kerch Strait, is the latest demonstration of that. Therefore, we call on Russia to abide by international law, to immediately release the seized vessels and their crew, and to ensure free access to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov” the Minister underlined.
Edgars Rinkēvičs condemned the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol and drew attention to the fact that fighting in the eastern part of Ukraine was affecting peace and security across Europe. “The human rights situation in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea is deteriorating at an alarming level. Therefore, a long-term peaceful resolution to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is essential, and this should also remain a top-priority for the OSCE. Other serious challenges to our commitments for peace and security in Europe are protracted conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Transnistria, as well as in the Nagorno-Karabakh. Stronger efforts and political will are desperately needed here to come to peaceful and sustainable solutions,” Edgars Rinkēvičs noted.
The Minister also recalled that no concept of security could exist without human rights and democracy, the rule of law and fundamental freedoms. At the same time, effective steps must be taken to improve the safety of journalists in order to ensure a vibrant and free media in all OSCE participating states. “The OSCE provides us with a unique platform for dialogue and cooperation. However, we can use it to its full potential, only if we all return to a rules-based security order and respect and uphold our common principles and values,” said Edgars Rinkēvičs in conclusion.
The Ministerial Council is the central decision-making and governing body of the OSCE. The meeting, held annually, provides the Foreign Ministers of the 57 OSCE participating States with an opportunity to review and assess the Organization’s activities and ascertain the national positions of the participating States on security and cooperation issues.
The previous meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council, chaired by Austria, took place in Vienna in 2017. Next year, the Council chairmanship will be taken over by Slovakia.
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