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OSCE: Doubts Persists About Ability To Authorize NATO Moves

  • Roland Eggleston

Munich, 23 June 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Speaking yesterday in Vienna, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana suggested that Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) could issue a mandate for NATO intervention to stop bloodshed in Kosovo. Today, OSCE officials expressed surprise at that suggestion.

Solana made the suggestion at an annual "NATO workshop," which ended today. The workshop was attended by representatives of all NATO members. Solana discussed the possibility of a U.N. mandate for intervention in Kosovo, and said the reality was that any such move would almost certainly be vetoed by Russia and possibly by other countries.

Solana then said that in his personal view, a U.N. mandate was not a prerequisite and NATO could obtain what he called a "suitable mandate" from the OSCE.

NATO officials said Solana's suggestion was based on a decision taken by the heads of Government of the OSCE states at a summit meeting in Helsinki in July 1992. This said that OSCE could initiate peacekeeping operations in case of conflict with or among participating states to help maintain peace and stability while a political process to resolve the crisis was underway. It added that OSCE could call on NATO, the West European Union or the CIS states for assistance.

Officials at OSCE headquarters in Vienna were hunting through the records today to discover whether such a possibility was ever discussed at the summit or regular meetings of foreign ministers.

A senior OSCE official today told RFE /RL: "We don't think we have the authority to ask NATO to intervene in Kosovo on behalf of the OSCE. But we are still searching the records and consulting with our experts." The official said that at first glance there appeared to be a number of problems with Solana's suggestion.

The most obvious one is that any such action would require the consensus of all 54 active members, and Russia would almost certainly refuse. Belgrade itself would not be involved because its membership of the OSCE was suspended in July 1992.

Other problems relate to the character of NATO intervention. It would almost certainly fall into the category of "enforcement" operations. OSCE has stressed in several of its documents that it can intervene in conflicts only as a peace-"keeping" force and cannot become involved in peace-"enforcement."

This view is also reinforced through its links to the United Nations. The OSCE is a regional organization of the United Nations and Chapter Eight of the U.N. Charter says regional organizations may not become involved in "enforcement" operations.

OSCE itself has several times discussed what it can and cannot do in regard to peacekeeping operations. The OSCE summit meeting in Helsinki in July 1992 declared quite unequivocally that OSCE peacekeeping "will not entail enforcement action."

OSCE's preferences are made clear in the proposals drawn up in October 1994 for a possible peacekeeping force in Nagorno-Karabakh. The document says the OSCE peacekeeping force will move into the territory only after all fighting has stopped and the opposing forces have withdrawn to agreed boundaries. The Nagorno-Karabakh document says the job of the OSCE would be to help maintain the ceasefire and supervise the withdrawal of heavy weapons to collection areas. The document says: "the peacekeeping force will n-o-t engage in peace enforcement action." The possibilities of using OSCE as a peacekeeping mechanism in conflicts in Europe have been frequently discussed in the negotiations in Vienna on a new security model for Europe in the next century. The negotiations are secret, but some of the participants have told RFE/RL that the United States has frequently said OSCE should have a broader mandate.

The U.S. has argued that the 1992 Helsinki statement banning OSCE from "enforcement" operations is out-of-date and does not reflect the times. The negotiations on the new security model are not expected to conclude until summer next year.

In the meantime, a spokesman told RFE/RL today that the negotiators would not be making any statement on Solana's suggestion.