OSCE discusses Caucasus situation

December 5th, 2008 - 5:22 am ICT by IANS  

Helsinki, Dec 5 (DPA) Proposals for the future security structure of Europe were discussed Thursday when foreign ministers from the 56- nation Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) met in Helsinki.”It is very early stages. We don’t have anything concrete on the table,” Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb said after what he described as “a frank discussion.”

Finland is current holder of the rotating OSCE chairmanship and hosted the 16th OSCE ministerial conference.

Before and after the luncheon, ministers from the member states also touched on the war between Russia and Georgia in August in their speeches and separate meetings.

Calls were made for an extension of OSCE military monitors in Georgia. Their mandate expires Dec 31.

A possible response from Russia was expected Friday when Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was due to deliver his conference speech.

Thursday, Georgia’s Foreign Minister Ekaterine Tkeshelashvili - without mentioning Russia by name - said that “invading forces had not withdrawn” after the ceasefire brokered by the European Union and the OSCE.

But Tkeshelashvili stressed there was need for an extension of the OSCE mission in Georgia, with observers having “full access” to all areas. It was not possible to have “confidence in negotiations unless there was compliance of the ceasefire,” the Georgian minister said.

The OSCE evolved from the Helsinki process that, in 1975, during the Cold War, saw the signing of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Speakers also noted the role OSCE could continue play along with the European Union and NATO.

Among foreign ministers present were Bernard Kouchner of France, Britain’s David Miliband, and Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Stubb said Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos and Steinmeier had suggested that ministers meet for a lengthier discussion on the security structure.

Stubb, who succeeded Moratinos as holder of the rotating chairmanship, earlier said the chairmanship year had included “some bad news,” specifically mentioning the “ferocious conflict and war in Georgia.”

Work was continuing on a political declaration, Stubb said.

Steinmeier said there was “urgent” need for “a new start when it comes to arms control.”

He said Germany planned to host a meeting to discuss the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), which Russia has suspended in protest of US plans to create a missile-defence shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Miliband said he supported the German plan, and backed OSCE military monitoring in Georgia and breakaway regions.

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns said there was need “to preserve the benefits of the CFE Treaty,” which was “at risk.”

Burns spoke in the absence of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is traveling in India and Pakistan in an attempt to defuse tensions between the two neighbours after the recent attacks in Mumbai.

The OSCE’s activities include election monitoring. It has also been engaged in efforts to solve so-called frozen conflicts involving the breakaway regions of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan and Transnistria in Moldova.

Stubb and other speakers also noted the organization’s efforts to tackle human trafficking and drugs.

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