OSCE Ministerial Council: UK closing statement

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We are reaching the end of a long week, at the end of a particularly challenging year.

Now is the time to pause and reflect on what the Albanian Chairmanship team has accomplished this year. The consensus we have reached, under Albania’s skilful leadership, on meaningful decisions across all three dimensions, would be impressive by any Chairperson’s standards – but when set against a backdrop of the unprecedented challenges faced this year it is truly remarkable.

The COVID 19 pandemic has dominated 2020. We express heartfelt condolences to all who lost loved ones and express sympathy for the lives and livelihoods affected across the OSCE region, particularly those communities made more vulnerable as a result of conflict. The UK applauds Albania for moving the OSCE online and enabling the work that we do to continue, and we applaud the support provided by ICT and Conference Services. We also recognise the efforts made by the OSCE’s Secretariat, Institutions and Field missions to continue to deliver on their mandates during this period while at the same time keeping their people safe.

2020 has also, sadly, been marred by conflict and ongoing gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

While we welcome that SMM reports show that the strengthened ceasefire continues to largely hold, sadly this progress on the ground has not been translated into the Trilateral Contact Group. We repeat our call on Russia to match Ukraine’s constructive approach so that real progress can be made, including as we enter the festive period. Nor can we forget those innocent Ukrainians forced to spend this holiday season behind bars due to their rightful opposition to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, which we do not and will not recognise.

As we reflect on the suffering of civilians due to the military hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan which erupted in September or the entrenchment of artificial dividing lines in Georgia and Moldova under the pre-text of the pandemic, we are reminded more than ever of the vital importance of the OSCE’s conflict mediation formats. We reiterate once again our firmest support for the work of the Minsk Group and its Co-Chairs, the Geneva International Discussions and the 5+2 process.

We heard yesterday in a side event from Belarusian civil society that the human rights situation there continues to deteriorate. We will continue to support the Belarusian people in their efforts towards accountability and the right to determine their own futures. We call again for the Belarusian authorities to live up to their OSCE commitments and international human rights obligations.

As Chair of the Security Committee, I am pleased that consensus was able to be reached on a declaration on transnational organised crime. I hope this can serve as a foundation for a refocus on this important security issue in the OSCE area. I am also proud that despite differences between delegations – we were able to negotiate in a spirit of mutual respect. Thank you to all delegations and participating States for your approach this year. I very much hope we can see that spirit elsewhere in the OSCE.

It remains as important as ever to ensure that OSCE’s politico-military instruments are fully implemented and fit for purpose, and making concrete progress on agendas supported by the overwhelming majority of participating States, like UNSCR 1325.

As host of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties next November, there are also security challenges like climate change that it is important we pay sufficient attention to.

The departure in July of the OSCE’s senior job holders added yet another level of complexity to Albania’s Chairpersonship year. We are grateful to Albania and to the Advisory Group of Friends for steering the consensus building process and securing those crucial four appointments. I repeat again the UK position that appointments such as these should be based first and foremost on the merit of the candidates and not on some pre agreed system of rotation or geographical balance.

With the OSCE’s new leadership now clear, we welcome Helga Schmid, Matteo Meccaci, Maria Teresa Ribeiro; and Kairat Abdrakhmanov to their roles. And we make a plea to all states – instead of seeking to weaken or undermine the Institutions through constant challenge to their mandates, or public criticism of their work, that we support and work with the OSCE’s new leadership in the delivery of the mandates, roles and responsibilities that we, the participating States gave to them, and we give them the funding that they need to do so.

This is the single biggest step we can take right now to improve organisational effectiveness.

To conclude and as our Foreign Secretary said yesterday, the global challenges we face grow, we need to work together. As 2020 nears a close – multilateral responses are more important than ever.

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