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Europe

OSCE powers agree to European security debate

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Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-06-28

World powers in the the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe have agreed to launch an "open, sustained, wide-ranging and inclusive" debate to revamp European security in the face of new challenges.

AFP - World powers in the the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe agreed Sunday to launch a comprehensive debate to revamp European security in the face of new challenges.
   
"We agreed on the need for an open, sustained, wide-ranging and inclusive dialogue on security," Greek Foreign Minister and OSCE chairwoman Dora Bakoyannis said at the close of the meeting on the Greek island of Corfu.
   
"(We) concurred that the OSCE is a natural forum to anchor this dialogue because it is the only regional organisation bringing together all states from Vancouver to Vladivostok on an equal basis," she said.
   
The organisation's permanent representatives in Vienna will hammer out proposals for a "more structured dialogue" at the OSCE's formal ministers' meeting in Athens in December, Bakoyannis said.
   
Foreign ministers from the OSCE's 56 member-states held the informal meeting under the shadow of a number of frozen conflicts in the region, chief among them the legacy of last year's Georgia war that poisoned relations with Russia.
   
With opposition from Russia, the mandate of 200 OSCE observers in Georgia was not renewed and the deadlock remained unbroken after Sunday's talks.
   
The talks in Corfu were also overshadowed by the aftermath of electoral unrest in Iran, with EU ministers meeting after the close of the OSCE conference on how to handle visa requests from Iranian opposition activists.
   
Russia had come to Corfu hoping to promote its own proposals for a new, legally binding security pact to replace what it sees as outdated arms control treaties from the Cold War and help avoid crises like the war in Georgia.
   
But a number of EU ministers expressed reservations with the Russian offer.
   
"I think the message is that we don't need new structures. We need to reaffirm and strengthen the current structures and for me that means strengthening the OSCE," Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb said.
   
"Everyone thinks -- almost everyone thinks -- that existing security organisations in Europe are working quite well. NATO, the EU, and the OSCE," he told reporters.
   
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner added: "Honestly it was not the centre of the discussion. Because we don't know exactly what proposals we're supposed to talk about."
   
NATO is also wary of the idea, seeing in it a plot by Moscow to do away with the military alliance as its expansion moves ever closer to Russia's borders.
   
"There are many things that can be developed further, without changing the basic structures, without putting at risk something which has provided fantastic stability for many, many years," said EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
   
"For instance, the NATO-Russia Council can be developed further," he said, referring to the forum where the two sides discuss cooperation and air their differences. "The OSCE can develop further in some directions."
   
Russia later agreed to pursue the security discussion within the OSCE framework, Bakoyannis told the closing news conference.
   
"Russia has said it will continue to participate in OSCE talks," she said.
   
"All our partners around the table agreed that we needed a more intensive dialogue on European security issues, and this is what we are going to work for," Bakoyannis said.
   
Russian officials were not available for comment.
   
But in a sign that the stalemate in Georgia is unlikely to end soon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisted Saturday that Moscow's decision to recognise the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia would not be reversed.
   
"All have to accept the new realities and the decisions taken by Russia after the conflict are irreversible," he said.
   
A day earlier, NATO and Russia agreed to resume military and political cooperation that had suffered a serious setback in the wake of the Georgia war.
   
The pan-European OSCE security body, whose mission is to deal with issues ranging from arms control and crime-fighting to human rights and election monitoring, comprises states from Europe, Central Asia and North America including Canada and the United States.
   
 

Date created : 2009-06-28

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