Time “to turn the corner” and emerge from the crisis in co-operation, says OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Rama at opening of Tirana Ministerial Council

Time “to turn the corner” and emerge from the crisis in co-operation, says OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Rama at opening of Tirana Ministerial Council
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  • calendar-gray 03 December 2020

It’s time to “turn the corner” and overcome the current crisis in co-operation, said OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Prime Minister and Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania, Edi Rama, in his opening statement to over 50 foreign ministers and senior diplomats gathered in Tirana and online for the 27th OSCE Ministerial Council, APA reports citing press service of OSCE.

In his address to Ministers of the OSCE participating States and Partners for Co-operation, Rama warned that ongoing and deepening tensions and mistrust in the region, meant that “we are in a crisis, a worsening crisis.”

“We supposedly have a shared vision — created in Helsinki and continued in Paris, Istanbul and Astana — for a democratic, peaceful and united Europe,” he said. “That vision is moving further away from us. Because our principles are not respected. Because our commitments are not implemented. Because the divergence in our views is growing. Because unilateral is too often chosen over international. Because confrontation is chosen over conversation. And because disruption is chosen over co-operation.”

He added: “Our Organization is only as strong as its commitments, and our regional security is only as strong as your will to implement those commitments. If that will is lacking, as it is seems to be today, then we will struggle to ever emerge from this crisis.”

Looking back over the year, Rama acknowledged the extraordinary and unprecedented consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My sympathy goes to those who have lost loved ones as a result of the virus,” he said. “And my sincere thanks goes to those health and frontline workers who persevere, every day, in keeping us safe and maintaining our essential services. While we predominantly focus on the health and economic consequences of COVID-19, we must also tackle its adverse impact on our comprehensive security. There is a brighter future ahead, and we can — and will  – take bold and concerted measures to build back better.”

Turning to the crisis in and around Ukraine, he welcomed the “unprecedented, low levels of ceasefire violations on the ground” but lamented the humanitarian situation and ongoing obstructions to the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission’s work. He also appealed for a more practical approach in the discussions in the Trilateral Contact Group, under the mediation of the OSCE.

Referencing the recent fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict context, he said he was thankful that the fighting has ceased. Expressing his full support for initiatives under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, he called for “substantive negotiations, in good faith, in order to reach agreement on the steps for a comprehensive, peaceful and lasting resolution to the conflict.” 

Separately, Rama expressed his hope for a resumption of the Geneva International Discussions and a result-oriented Transdniestrian Settlement Process in the new year.

On Belarus, the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office conveyed his disappointment that his offer, made together with his Swedish counterpart and incoming OSCE Chair, Ann Linde, to visit the country and facilitate dialogue was not accepted by Minsk.

“I maintain my view that the OSCE, as an inclusive organization, remains well-placed and ready to volunteer its good offices to support Belarus. I hope Belarus reconsiders our offer,” he said.

Acknowledging that Albania “had to steer the OSCE ship in particularly turbulent times”, he said he was hopeful that the Organization, with its new senior leadership and incoming Chairs of Sweden (2021) and Poland (2022), would “get the OSCE back to full power and chart a way forward… Let’s use Tirana as an opportunity to turn a corner.”

The President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA) George Tsereteli appealed to the 57 participating States to make full use of the Organization’s potential to help build a safer and more stable future for us all.

“The OSCE PA’s initiative, a ‘Call for Action: Reaffirming our Common Purpose,’ has been endorsed and signed by more than 50 former and present OSCE leaders, including Chairs-in-Office, Presidents of the Parliamentary Assembly, Secretaries General of the OSCE and the OSCE PA, and Heads of Institutions,” he said. “Despite all the difficulties that we are facing, we must, make an attempt to relaunch all our efforts to bring back the spirit that motivated the signatories of the Helsinki Final Act and the Charter of Paris.”

In her report to the Ministerial Council, Tuula Yrjölä, Officer in Charge/Secretary General and Director of OSCE Conflict Prevention Centre (CPC), noted how the Organization quickly and successfully responded to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Secretariat enabled the OSCE to be one of the first international organizations to move its decision-making bodies online. Maintaining dialogue remains critical to building trust, preventing and resolving conflicts, and promoting co-operation to tackle shared security challenges,” she said. “As this Ministerial Council demonstrates, COVID-19 has not prevented our unique regional platform from fostering an inclusive security dialogue where all participating States have an equal voice. The pandemic reminds us that we need to be prepared for unexpected challenges, and that it is more important than ever to co-operate in finding solutions.”

Zumrud Pashkin

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