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updated 6:55 AM UTC, Oct 17, 2017

Full text of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the 23rd meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council, Hamburg, December 8, 2016

открытие СМИД ОБСЕ

 

Mr Chairperson-in-Office,

Mr Secretary General,

Ms President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Colleagues,

In the past year, the situation in and around Europe has remained unstable. The foundations of military-political security have continued to be eroded rather than strengthened. An increasing number of prerequisites for an arms race have appeared. Terrorist acts have been committed more than once. Regional conflicts have not subsided. Diplomacy and economic ties have been replaced with increasingly gross rhetoric, propaganda and unilateral sanctions. Is this the Europe we want to see?

We have been talking about this state of affairs for several years now. The problem is that the Euro-Atlantic Region has not yet developed a common vision of equal and indivisible security. The euphoria that the West experienced after the end of the Cold War did not allow the sides to develop an open political process and build a common security community.

Instead of removing division lines, a choice was made in favour of a closed NATO-centric system. NATO adopted a course towards moving its borders, forces and military infrastructure eastward and changing the military balance in its favour. The NATO leaders renounced professional dialogue with Russia and the CSTO on drafting collective measures to counter real rather than mythical threats. As a result, the European space broke into separate zones with different levels of security guarantees. Tough security based on confidence-building and arms control measures found itself in deep systemic crisis.

 

For all that, the situation is not desperate. We believe that our common long-term goal is to build an indivisible security community in line with the decision made at the OSCE Summit in Astana in 2010. It remains an urgent task. However, today we should at least work to restore mutual trust without any attempts to impose one’s own will and values on each other.

To begin with, we suggest ending the bellicose rhetoric, renouncing reciprocal accusations and switching to equitable dialogue based on mutual respect. This will help us create the required political atmosphere for conducting an unbiased comparative analysis of war potentials in Europe. Together we must take a map of Europe and see who has deployed what and where. We are confident that the results of such an analysis will convincingly dispel the myth about “the Russian threat” and will graphically show where the risks are coming from. Only after this can we discuss what else should be done for launching dialogue on confidence and arms control measures. That said, the first mandatory step is obvious: the NATO countries should stop military activities and the deployment of military infrastructure near Russia’s borders and reverse the situation to, at least, where it was at the end of 2013. Otherwise, NATO is creating new military reality as regards Russia and wants to reach an agreement on this basis. This is not going to happen.

However, we must restore trust not only in the military-political area. Economic cooperation is no less important. We are supporting the idea of drafting confidence-building measures for the economy. These measures may become one of the pillars of the new European order without division lines and confrontational logic. We welcome the discussion of topics of economic connectivity in the OSCE and the plans of the incoming Austrian Chairmanship in this regard.

It is also important to restore credibility in the sphere of cyberspace. Over the past year, we have witnessed phone tapping and email hacking scandals involving high-ranking officials. We have heard a lot of unsubstantiated accusations of cyber attacks that were allegedly used for political purposes. As you may be aware, to prevent such occurrences, the OSCE has created a mechanism for developing confidence-building measures for information technology users. I believe this mechanism should be made more effective.

We propose considering an action plan, which would include the following steps. First, it is imperative to identify ways to improve the OSCE role in resolving cyber incidents. We are convinced that the OSCE is capable of performing intermediary functions, providing a platform for direct dialogue and preventing such incidents from escalating into a confrontation.

Second, we should hold a special conference on information security. A meeting on this topic, which had already been planned by the Austrian Chairmanship, can play such a role.
Third, it is imperative to strengthen and regulate the activities of the working group on confidence-building measures in cyberspace. Fourth and last, a specialised information security unit should be established within the OSCE Secretariat.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The best way to restore trust is to work on an important cause together. Fighting the terrorist threat is such a cause. Terrorism is spreading to Europe, primarily through its ideology, which infects humans like an epidemic. Therefore, the importance of preventive measures cannot be overestimated. This ideology and the incitement to acts of terror must be confronted and dealt with. Russia has prepared a corresponding draft UN Security Council resolution. The OSCE can make a sizable contribution to these efforts if it acts together with the UN.

Terrorism is closely related to the drug problem, since drug trafficking is behind the bulk of the terrorists’ funding. The Afghan narcotics police are trained in Russia under an arrangement with the OSCE. This year, narcotics officers from Serbia came to St Petersburg for training. We reiterate our proposal to create, within the OSCE Secretariat, a specialised unit to combat drug trafficking.
It is extremely dangerous to sacrifice the common cause of fighting terrorism to geopolitical ambitions. It is time to stop dividing terrorists into good and bad. The ramifications of interfering in internal affairs, forced democratisation and government toppling can be clearly seen in the Middle East and North Africa.

Such geopolitical engineering has led to severe consequences in that region, while numerous hotbeds of instability in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen have resulted in a sweeping migration crisis in Europe. The answer to this challenge has yet to be found. Russia supports the dialogue on migration in the OSCE. We hope that it will help find the necessary solutions.

Ukraine has also fallen victim to an externally-induced experiment. The coup d’etat in Kiev has given rise to a civil war in Donbass, which has lasted for two and a half years now.

Russia, like no one else, is interested in bringing an early peaceful settlement to the Ukraine conflict based on the Minsk Package of Measures, to which there is no alternative. Direct talks between Kiev and Donbass as part of the Contact Group with the support of the Normandy format play a central role here. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine is an important stabilisation factor. We hope that our combined efforts will help achieve the implementation of the Minsk Package of Measures, approved by UN Security Council Resolution 2202, including concrete steps to provide special status to Donbass, a provision that  must be fixed in the Ukrainian constitution, an amnesty, and holding local elections there. We call for stopping the persecution of dissidents and the church, and the attempts to filibuster the investigation into massive loss of life and political assassinations.

We wish for Ukraine to overcome, as soon as possible, its drawn-out political and economic crisis.

A responsible approach is called upon to facilitate the resolution of other complicated issues in the OSCE space. As regards Transnistria, Russia supports the resumption of talks in the 5+2 format. We will do all we can to promote the settlement in Nagorno-Karabakh, both as co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group and during direct contacts with the sides. We believe that all conflicts must be settled peacefully in the framework of agreed formats, with equitable participation of all sides and with account of their interests.

We will continue to take part in the Geneva discussions on security in the South Caucasus. Their central issue is the signing of agreements on the non-use of force.

The OSCE plays a positive role in settling conflicts and has appropriate instruments for this. The issue of its reform requires a delicate approach. It is important to consider the current mandates of the Chairmanship, the Secretary General, the institutes and missions, their civil character and accountability to policy-making bodies, where the member states make decisions on the basis of consensus.

As for modernising the arsenal of instruments, reforms should be primarily made in the OSCE human dimension. Russia and a number of other countries have long been making proposals to adjust thematic and geographical imbalances in the work of institutes and missions, and to abandon lecturing and attempts to impose values without considering the specificities of different states and regions of Europe.

That said the obvious problems are being neglected: the rise of neo-Nazism, the position of “non-citizens” in the Baltic states, discrimination of national minorities and human rights aspects of the migration crisis in the EU.

Such double standards deal a blow to universal values that lie at the foundation of modern civilisation and all world religions. Adopting a declaration on countering anti-Semitism in Basel two years ago, we agreed to draft similar documents on fighting intolerance as regards Christians and Muslims. Regrettably, the implementation of this decision is being permanently delayed.

A selective approach to initiatives of the member states is undermining the principles of dialogue and equality. This happened with two Russian projects: on media pluralism and the unacceptability of discrimination in sport. The rule that sport should be separated from politics is being ignored more and more often. An outrageous example is the denial of entry to the United States of FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who was going to take part in the opening ceremony of the Match for the World Chess Crown.

Neglect of these problems inevitably leads to a crisis of the entire system of the OSCE baskets. We already got used to scandals at the humanitarian review conference in Warsaw. This year two delegations had to walk out because of the aggressive conduct of people sentenced for crimes in these countries. More and more countries hosting missions are dissatisfied with their work and interference in domestic affairs.

At one time Russia and a group of its co-authors proposed many measures to redress this, for instance, to adopt an OSCE Charter and endorse principles of monitoring elections, procedures for appointing mission heads, rules for NGO participation in OSCE events and to upgrade programme-budget planning. These proposals remain valid. We urge the Austrian Chairmanship to resume their discussion.

We consider the OSCE to be a major platform for discussing ways of cooperating on key European issues. Let me repeat that our common, long-term goal should be to build a community of equal and indivisible security in the Euro-Atlantic Region and Eurasia, and that we should start with restoring the lost trust. We can only do this if we have the required political will and mutual respect and consolidate the principle of consensus and the OSCE interstate foundation.

In conclusion, we would like to thank our German colleagues for their hospitality and the successful holding of the Ministerial Council meeting in Hamburg. We appreciate their efforts to maintain the high profile of the OSCE in international affairs. We wish success to the incoming Austrian Chairmanship in formulating a balanced OSCE agenda that will prioritise issues vital for our countries and peoples.

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