Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the 22nd OSCE Ministerial Council, Belgrade, December 3, 2015
Mr Secretary General,
Mr President of the Parliamentary Assembly,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Before I begin, I would like to express my sincere condolences to US Secretary of State John Kerry and through him to the United States and the entire American people over the San Bernardino tragedy.
In the year of the 40th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act and the 25th anniversary of the Paris Charter for a New Europe, we all have to recognise that the OSCE region has failed to measure up to the historic mission that seemed to be assigned to us by fate – that is, to become a model of a successful, conflict-free partnership, an example for other regions.
Rather, the reverse can be observed – towards deeper distrust and instability, and a dangerous accumulation of crisis-related variables. As a result, the assertions that the course of events in today’s Europe is associated with the period shortly before World War I, when politicians lacked the wisdom to deal with an impending catastrophe, and geopolitical ambitions prevailed, no longer sound exotic. The key question is what today’s statesmen will decide – the continuation of the pursuit for one-side tactical gains or a decisive turnaround towards serious and sincere partnership to stand up to common challenges.
I don’t think there’s a need to prove to anybody that Europe today can no longer afford the luxury of becoming immersed in its own troubles and conflicts as though the world around it did not exist. Amid today’s radically increasing interdependence, this is impossible if only because Europe now not so much influences adjacent regions as much as it is exposed to an increasingly strong impact from them, including the migration crisis provoked by gross outside interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states and the subsequent chaos and rampant terrorism.
The barbarous attacks in Paris and in the airspace over Sinai – as well as in Beirut, Ankara, Baghdad, Kabul, Mali and Cameroon – leave no doubt that the security of OSCE states cannot be ensured in isolation from building up concerted efforts to eliminate the terrorist threat along the southern boundaries of our region. A dangerous and merciless enemy, aiming to destroy modern civilisation, has taken root there. Without meeting this challenge, Europe will be unable to count on stable and prosperous development. We consider it necessary to take immediate action in several areas simultaneously.
First, we should do what President Putin proposed at the UN General Assembly, that is, create a broad international coalition against terrorism with the OSCE and Middle Eastern countries to defeat ISIS and other terrorist groups. Preventing the implementation of the ISIS caliphate project, which discredits one of the world’s major religions, Islam, is a key priority to which all our other efforts must be subordinated, just as we did when we set issues of secondary importance aside to fight Nazism.
It’s criminal to flirt with extremists in the hope of using them for achieving one’s political objectives, such as a change of government, profits from illegal trade with criminals, or regional leadership. Of course, there can be no justification for attempts to hamper the fight against terrorism by shielding terrorists from retribution, as happened in the Syrian skies on November 24.
The UN Security Council has called for precluding any assistance to terrorists, including the provision of funds, weapons and shelter, and commercial transactions. We will continue to work towards the strict implementation of these decisions by OSCE member countries in close coordination with their partners in the Middle East and North Africa.
Second, we must redouble efforts to bring about a political settlement of conflicts in Syria, Libya, Yemen and other countries. However, I want to stress that this should be done in earnest, without feigning activity or promoting secret agendas. Regarding Syria, it would be naïve to hope for progress without implementing the Vienna agreements on compiling the list of terrorist groups that must be eliminated. It is unacceptable that terrorists are still divided into “good” and “bad”. None of them have the right to participate in negotiations, which only the Syrian government and patriotic opposition forces that reject violence and extremism can attend. Only in this way can Syrians reach an agreement on the future of their country.
Third, we must prevent terrorists from winning the battle for the minds of the people, in which they exploit young people’s dissatisfaction with the technocratic primitivism of modern societies and their rejection of the traditional values honoured by all religions.
The attempts to fan religious strife, be it between Muslims and other faiths, or inside Islam, are extremely dangerous. Our task is to bring all spiritual leaders, politicians, state officials and public figures together to expose terrorists as apostates who have betrayed their faith.
Special responsibility lies with the media, which should stop playing the card of interreligious contradictions in information wars.
Back in the 1990s, Russia proposed focusing the OSCE’s efforts on fighting terrorism. At the time, our proposal was met with a lukewarm reaction (let’s not go into details, but we know this). Nevertheless, upon our initiative, a special Transnational Threats Department was established in the OSCE Secretariat. It bears special responsibility in ensuring preparations for the OSCE counter-terrorism conference slated for next year.
In the interest of achieving the maximum payoff, the OSCE should work more closely with its partners in the southern Mediterranean, helping countries where the exodus of migrants originates settle conflicts that fuel a new migration of peoples. At the same time it is essential to see the root causes of such conflicts, which in the majority of cases amount to gross interference from the outside in the complicated process of internal development of regional states. We hope that the appointment of the OSCE PA Special Representative for Mediterranean Affairs will not be a mere formality but help to learn correct lessons from the past, including the events of the so-called Arab spring.
It is also important to intensify efforts to promote the resumption of talks on a comprehensive settlement in the Middle East. In the admission of many experts, the failure to resolve the Palestinian problem over decades is a key factor allowing extremists to recruit new supporters.
Any conflict, both south of our common area of responsibility and right in the OSCE area, calls for consolidated action, concerted effort and respect for the culture of consensus and mediation formats. This is the only way of providing essential conditions to encourage conflicting parties to look for mutually acceptable solutions. This is our guiding principle in our approaches towards the resolution of conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh, Transnistria, Cyprus and Ukraine.
OSCE values do not abide one-sided action eroding the spirit and letter of the Helsinki Final Act.
The NATO aggression against Yugoslavia in 1999 – and this cannot be denied – became a Pandora box for Europe. Unfortunately, our Western partners did not draw due conclusions from the Kosovo tragedy and continued to follow bloc logic, striving to expand their geopolitical control contrary to the goal proclaimed by all leaders of OSCE member-countries – to create a community of equal and undivided security. As a result, systemic contradictions continued to build up, which broke through in the Ukraine crisis. We are seeing a growing understanding of the true causes of the conflict in Ukraine. We are confident that there is a realistic prospect for its peaceful resolution and that there is no alternative.
To this end, it is necessary to honour in good faith all aspects of the Minsk Package of Measures through a direct dialogue with Ukraine and to abandon attempts to evade one’s obligations, lay the blame at someone else’s door, step up belligerent rhetoric and provoke violations of the ceasefire regime. Lifting an economic blockade on Donbass, which is totally unjustified, is an overriding priority. The collective efforts of the Normandy Four, the Contact Group and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, the performance of which we praise, should be directed at achieving all these goals.
The overcoming of the Ukraine crisis on an agreed-upon basis, and this basis is provided by the Minsk agreements, would be an important indicator of the ability of OSCE members to return to the fundamental values of our organisation, including respect for the sovereignty of states and non-interference in their domestic affairs.
Increasing attempts to revise the results of World War II, to glorify Nazis and put them on the same plane with Europe’s liberators is cause for worry. Connivance at those who desecrate and destroy the monuments to the victors over Nazism is unacceptable.
The 40th anniversary of the Helsinki process has become a good pretext for talking about the further destiny of the OSCE. The results of the work of the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons show that we are at the very beginning of the road. They pointed to many real problems in the field of euro-security that were ignored before but did not manage to formulate recommendations on collective, acceptable-to-all approaches to their resolution. We consider it necessary to continue the search for a common denominator on the basis of the key principle of consensus and without attempts to impose unilateral assessments and positions on others.
If the OSCE wants to adapt itself to the requirements of today and tomorrow it should acquire a solid legal foundation in the form of its Charter. Reforms should ensure complete transparency of its methods of operation, including its budget, off-budget projects and field-related activities.
It is necessary to work for depoliticizing the humanitarian dimension, streamline methods of monitoring elections and eliminating the disgraceful phenomenon of non-citizenship. It is necessary to rule out completely the wilful use of OSCE instruments by some countries against others as the publication of the recent completely unauthorised report on Crimea by the ODIHR and High Commissioner on National Minorities.
OSCE member-countries have common interests in all three security dimensions. We hope these interests will be adequately reflected in the decisions of our meeting.
We appreciate Serbia’s efforts to form a well-balanced and intensive agenda for the OSCE. Now it will pass the baton to Germany. We wish our German colleagues success in the difficult, yet important work at the command bridge in 2016. We believe that the motto of the German Chairmanship – “Dialogue, Trust and Security” – completely conforms to the line towards enhancing the OSCE role. Now it is important to translate this slogan into practical deeds. We are prepared for such cooperation.