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OSCE: Report Roundup From The Foreign Ministers' Conference

  • Lisa McAdams

Oslo, 4 December 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The two-day annual meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) ended in Oslo December 3 with very little progress having been made in key trouble spots. OSCE foreign ministers called for mediated talks to resume without delay over Nagorno-Karabakh and Moldova's break-away Trans-Dniestr region.

The conference participants issued a statement urging Yugoslav and Serbian authorities, as well as all Kosovo Albanians, to cooperate so a serious political dialogue can start as soon as possible.

OSCE chairman and Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek said consensus was far from easy at the conference, but "small, pragmatic progress" was made toward a safer, democratic Europe. He said the ministers agreed on 11 separate decisions -- including one each on Moldova, Georgia and Central Asia. Geremek says they also decided to upgrade OSCE conflict prevention efforts.

Some signs of hope for improvement did emerge in Oslo over Turkey's long-running dispute with Armenia. Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian announced Yerevan is ready to start a productive dialogue with the new government in Ankara once it is formed. He said Armenia has withdrawn its objections to holding the next OSCE summit in Istanbul in hopes of better bilateral and regional cooperation.

There was no immediate Turkish reaction. Turkey has no diplomatic relations with Armenia and closed its border with its eastern neighbor five years ago, making its reopening conditional on the withdrawal of ethnic Armenian forces from Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding Azeri territories.

OSCE Calls For Reinvigorated Talks On Trans-Dniestr

OSCE foreign ministers on December 3 called for reinvigorated talks on Moldova's breakaway Trans-Dniestr region.

RFE/RL's correspondent in Oslo, Norway quotes the ministers as saying negotiations should be intensified through the OSCE mission to Moldova using Russian and Ukrainian mediators. The call was announced at the end of this year's ministerial council meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

In a statement, the OSCE ministers said negotiations on the status of Trans-Dniestr had "languished." The ministers urged both parties to intensify talks that are aimed at consolidating the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova, as well as reaching an understanding on the status of Trans-Dniestr.

The OSCE also called for full implementation of previous OSCE decisions. It expressed concern about the lack of progress on the withdrawal of Russian troops now stationed in Moldova. It said the removal of Russian military equipment should be the first step.

OSCE's Walker Says Kosovo Mission Robust

The OSCE's director of the Kosovo Verification Mission, William Walker, said the operation has reached what he calls "a robust stage."

Speaking to reporters at the OSCE annual ministerial council meeting in Oslo, Norway yesterday, Walker said the number of verifiers on the ground for the first time exceeds the number of people in the separate but complementary OSCE diplomatic observer mission. According to Walker, 500 new verifiers entered Pristina this week.

Our correspondent in Oslo reports that Walker said the priority is on establishing outreach to at least five regional centers around Kosovo in order to create an OSCE presence in all parts of the southern Serbian province.

Walker acknowledged that security of the unarmed mission is still a very big question, but he said he was more optimistic than most that a political settlement could be reached before spring, possibly averting the bloodshed so many others are predicting.

He said the biggest problems now were "political" and noted there would have to be more discussions with officials of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY: Serbia, Montenegro) on existing political military agreements. As he put it, "our interpretation (of our mandate) is a bit wider than perhaps the FRY's interpretation."

Walker also hailed the Russian government's participation in the mission saying he was "very pleased with their response so far." Russia has offered some 120 verifiers to the Kosovo task, some of whom, according to Walker, are already on the scene.

OSCE Urges Kosovo Parties To Resolve Disputes Peaceably

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe issued a statement (Dec. 3) urging all sides in the Kosovo conflict to stop fighting and resolve their differences by peaceful means. The statement also urges Yugoslav and Serbian authorities, as well as all Kosovo Albanians, to cooperate with each other so a serious political dialogue can start as soon as possible.

The statement was released at the end of the OSCE's annual ministerial council meeting in Oslo, Norway. OSCE chairman and Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek said consensus was from easy. But RFE/RL's correspondent in Oslo quotes Geremek as saying the document on Kosovo sends a clear signal about the commitment of all 54 OSCE member states to a political settlement in the Serbian province.

Foreign Ministers Focus On Kosovo Operation

Foreign Ministers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) began a two-day (Dec. 2-3) conference in Oslo, Norway.

Our correspondent in the Norwegian capital says today's talks focused on the OSCE's monitoring operation in Kosovo, which starts this month. About 1,800 monitors are due to police a ceasefire between ethnic Albanian fighters and Serbian security forces in the troubled Serbian province.

Outgoing chairman of the 54-nation OSCE, Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek, told the Oslo meeting the Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) would be "the greatest challenge in the history" of the OSCE.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebak, who takes over the chairmanship January 1, said he would push for Yugoslavia to rejoin the OSCE during his tenure, but cautioned that this would depend on whether Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic followed agreements reached on Kosovo.

Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic issued a strongly-worded statement today, criticizing the OSCE for their diplomatic contacts with the Kosovo Liberation Army.

The ministers also agreed today to send OSCE missions to Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Vollebak said the mission to Kazakhstan, to monitor presidential elections, would be of major importance.

OSCE Hails Albania Referendum

The head of the OSCE presence in Albania, Daan Everts, today hailed the recent constitutional referendum in the Balkan nation as a good marker for future progress.

But in a press briefing with reporters, on the sidelines of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's annual Ministerial Council meeting in Oslo, Norway, Everts warned the opposition would have to be more fully involved.

He said it was "sad," that Albania's constitutional referendum had not in his view really cleared the air, and he warned that without constructive dialogue, a difficult situation lies ahead.

Specifically, he noted with concern, the continued lack of long-term security, economic growth and general rule of law in Albania.

Everts later told RFE/RL that one area holding up better relations between the opposition and the government was the opposition's desire to have an independent investigation into the murder of democratic party leader Azem Hajdari. Hajdari's death led to widespread unrest in Albania in mid-September.

Everts said the Albanians have since asked Norway, as it assumes chairmanship of the OSCE next year, to help in this regard as a "neutral" third party. Norway, in return, has just this week sent an independent prosecutor from Bergen, Norway to Albania to assist in resolving the case, according to Everts.

In the meantime, Everts said the OSCE and other Western institutions continued to press the Albanian opposition to end their boycott and return to parliament. It is only in this way, Everts said, that a real democratic solution will be found.

OSCE Meeting Opens With Tribute To Refugees, War Victims

Norway's Foreign Minister Kjell Bondevik opened the annual OSCE ministerial council meeting in Oslo (Dec. 2) with a tribute to thousands of refugees and war victims in countries covered by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Bondevik said millions of men, women and children in Kosovo, the Balkans, the Caucasus and Central Asia need the OSCE to improve and protect their lives and to promote respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms.

RFE/RL's correspondent in Oslo quotes Bondevik as saying the danger of large scale war in Europe has become "remote." But he said long-term security remains an elusive goal. He said the challenge is to build a new security structure adapted to the needs of post-Cold War Europe.

Bondevik, whose country will chair the OSCE in 1999, said a concerted effort is needed by all partners in the Europe-Atlantic community. He said the crisis in Kosovo is perhaps the largest challenge facing the OSCE. But he said the OSCE must maintain solidarity to prevent the outbreak of hostilities elsewhere in the Balkans -- including Macedonia, Bosnia and Croatia.

Ministers are due to discuss the deployment of 2,000 OSCE-led unarmed observers in Kosovo, a Serbian province populated mostly by ethnic Albanians. The observer force was agreed to in October by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic under the threat of possible NATO air strikes.

OSCE Troika Ministers Meet Mediterranean Counterparts

The foreign ministers of Denmark, Poland and Norway have held a meeting with their Mediterranean counterparts as part of an Organization For Security And Cooperation In Europe (OSCE) cooperation initiative.

Ministers from Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia took part in the meeting yesterday (Dec. 1) with the OSCE troika of past, present and future chairmen. The meeting was held on the eve of the OSCE's annual council meeting in Oslo.

The Secretary General of the OSCE, Giancarlo Aragano, also took part in the session in the Norwegian capital. Norway assumes the chairmanship of the OSCE next year.

The troika extended a special welcome to the foreign minister of Jordan, representing his country for the first time at a ministerial meting of the OSCE. Jordan was formally invited to become an OSCE Mediterranean partner for cooperation earlier this year.

The OSCE troika ministers agreed that strengthened security and cooperation in the Mediterranean was important for security in Europe. The Mediterranean partners expressed interest in drawing on OSCE expertise to tackle threats to their own regional security.