I would also like to welcome to the Council Mr. Andronius Ažubalis, Chairman-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Lithuania. We agree with the priority actions that he announced and we congratulate him on his attention to further strengthening the ties of cooperation between the United Nations and the OSCE.
The 56 participating States of the OSCE have the same goals in the areas of regional security, human and economic development and respect for human rights. The Astana Summit, held early in December 2010, reaffirmed those common objectives and created new avenues for cooperation.
The OSCE and the United Nations can be complementary in many areas, as Mr. Ažubalis has said. Transborder threats, the fight against organized crime, energy security, counter-terrorism, freedom of expression and freedom of the media are all challenges that are also engaging the United Nations. In addition, the Secretary General of the OSCE will present the OSCE’s activities in the Security Council’s Counter- Terrorism Committee next week, as a concrete example of exchange and cooperation on an issue of common interest.
Our two organizations also have much to exchange in order that their efforts in some regions are integrated. The Lithuanian Foreign Minister just mentioned Afghanistan, which is a neighbouring country to several OSCE participating States, where the organization is putting in place border-monitoring operations. In the Balkans, the OSCE continues to support the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo.
Central Asia is also an important area of operations for the OSCE, which has five missions there. Its grasp of the local terrain has made it able to effectively respond to the crisis that shook Kyrgyzstan in June 2010, working with the United Nations and the European Union. The Lithuanian chairmanship would like to devote efforts to the fight against transborder threats in Central Asia. We support that regional initiative, which could be coordinated with efforts by specialized international institutions. We especially support strengthening cooperation with the United Nations conflict prevention centre.
However, the OSCE and the United Nations have seen some of their common efforts thwarted. For example, the missions of both the OSCE and the United Nations were forced to abandon Georgia after the war in the summer of 2008, even though their presence was bolstering stability. The situation in Georgia remains a source of concern, especially in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as well as in the whole Caucasus region. We therefore call upon all actors in the region to refrain from any action that might destabilize the current fragile equilibrium. We will pursue our efforts in the Geneva discussions to work towards a peaceful settlement of the Georgian dispute.
The situation in Belarus has also been a source of particular concern for us since the presidential elections in December. We have witnessed attacks on freedom of the press and on basic principles of democracy, with a number of opposition figures having been arrested. The decision of the Belarusian authorities to close the OSCE office in Minsk is contrary to the values of the organization, to which Belarus itself has agreed. Together we must therefore call upon that State to respect human rights, and more specifically civil and political rights.
The OSCE covers a vast area with shared values that should be preserved and strengthened. It represents a unique model of cooperation, based on the conviction that the security of Europe goes hand in hand with the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. In that connection, we welcome the Lithuanian chairmanship’s commitment to promoting journalistic pluralism, to stopping hate crimes and to promoting human rights. Participating nations have undertaken significant commitments, such as protecting the territorial integrity of States, the peaceful settlement of disputes and rejection of recourse to the threat or use of force. We should all stand firm in those principles; indeed they are fundamental principles of our own Organization.
As an OSCE participant, we would like to see it develop ties with other regional organizations and international organizations, as well as with the European Union (EU). Cooperation with the EU is already very good and could be further strengthened. Like the OSCE, the European Union is indeed present in the Balkans, the Caucasus and Central Asia, where it plays an important role. Hundreds of European judges, police and other law enforcement officials have been deployed to the region to strengthen local capacity. The more interaction among different regional organizations — each with different experience and specific expertise — the more we can work together to be of use to countries that will benefit from our presence.
We wish Lithuania a very successful chairmanship of the OSCE and we hope that we can continue to strengthen and deepen cooperation between our two organizations./.