OSCE underlines “urgency” for dialogue on Ukrainian crisis

After the meetings in Geneva and Brussels, the OSCE ended Thursday in Vienna an intense diplomatic ballet to defuse the risk of a conflict in Ukraine, underlining “the urgency” to relaunch the dialogue on security in Europe. Moscow, for its part, drew up an observation of a deadlock and said it saw no use in new talks with the West “in the coming days”, so deep are the differences. According to the head of the Russian diplomacy Sergei Lavrov, they promised written answers next week to the demands of his country.

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“The situation in the region is perilous,” said Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Secretary General Helga Schmid at the opening of her Permanent Council. “It is imperative to find, through diplomatic channels, a way to stop the escalation and to start rebuilding trust, transparency and cooperation”, she added, referring to “an urgent need” in the face of “An unpredictable environment”. The OSCE, a multilateral platform for East-West discussions resulting from the Cold War, “is a unique place for that”, she insisted. “Each of the 57 member states has a seat around the table”. This body is indeed one of the rare exchange forums of which the United States and Russia are both members.

Also read: NATO-Russia: no ultimatum, no guarantees

“No question of negotiating under pressure”

Poland, which takes over the annual rotating OSCE chairmanship from Sweden, has also expressed concern, as have other Eastern European countries formerly under Moscow’s rule. “It seems that the risk of war in the OSCE area has never been so intense in the past 30 years”, underlined Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau. “A major challenge for the Organization, whose aim is precisely to ban war from Europe.”

Westerners accuse Moscow of having massed in recent weeks around 100,000 soldiers, tanks and artillery on the border with Ukraine to prepare an attack against this country, an intention denied by the Russian authorities. These troop movements “are part of the pressure” exerted by Moscow to obtain satisfaction of its demands, but there is “no question of negotiating under pressure”, said Thursday the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell. He was speaking before the start of an informal meeting with the defense ministers of EU member states in Brest (western France), aimed at “developing the position of the European Union […] in the face of the crisis ”.

“We must resolutely reject blackmail and ensure that attacks as threats never bear fruit,” added US Ambassador to the OSCE Michael Carpenter. For its part, Russia claims that this military deployment is a reaction to NATO’s deemed growing and threatening presence in what it considers its area of ​​influence. It also refuses any expansion of the Atlantic Alliance to countries which it considers to be in its backyard, such as Ukraine. Russian representative Alexander Lukachevich is due to speak to the media in Vienna in the afternoon.

Deep differences

After tense discussions in Geneva between the American and Russian vice-ministers of foreign affairs, Wendy Sherman and Sergei Riabkov, the Atlantic Alliance and Moscow had made Wednesday in Brussels the observation of their deep “differences” on security in Europe. “Yes, our positions are poles apart (from those of Russia), but that does not mean that we cannot find common ground”, underlined Michael Carpenter on the Russian independent television channel Dojd. The challenge is to “determine in what forms the discussion can be deepened in the coming months”.

Also read: Russia-United States: a complicated but necessary dialogue on Ukraine

On the ground, conditions worsened for OSCE observers in areas controlled by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, the American ambassador also lamented, saying he was “extremely worried”. “The surveillance missions have so far detected nothing abnormal on the territory”, but at the border, “it is impossible for us to know what is happening”, he warned. Since 2014, the OSCE has been responsible for monitoring compliance with the Minsk peace accords in the rebel eastern part of Ukraine.

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