posted on Fri 21 Feb 2014 2:25 PM
Briefing by the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office

This morning Swiss Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Burkhalter, the Chairperson-in Office of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), will brief the Council. The OSCE briefing is held on an annual basis, soon after the new OSCE chairperson assumes office. The Swiss Chairmanship has defined the main objectives of the OSCE in 2014 as fostering security and stability; improving people’s lives; and strengthening the OSCE capacity to act.

Standard issues likely to be discussed in the briefing will be reconciliation processes in the Western Balkans, confidence-building measures in the South Caucasus, human rights and security sector governance. Burkhalter is also likely to cover the situation in Ukraine, which is likely to be of great interest given the developments in Ukraine, particularly over the week-end and

The issue of fostering security and stability will likely be of greatest interest to Council members, especially in light of recent developments in the Western Balkans and the wider Eastern European region. Burkhalter will likely brief the Council about the OSCE’s role in the implementation of the 19 April agreement between Serbia and Kosovo governing the normalisation of relations, as well as its role in facilitating the November 2013 local elections in Kosovo. Council members will likely use this opportunity to commend the work of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo in local elections as well as other activities.

Also of interest will be an update from Burkhalter on the recent protests that took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Protesters took to the streets earlier in the month demanding reforms and calling on political leaders to resign amid a dire socio-economic situation. The early stages of protests were marked by violence which gradually subsided. The Council could be interested in exploring ways in which the existing OSCE Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina could be utilised to facilitate the dialogue between citizens and political leaders.

In the wider regional context, and taking into account the withdrawal of the international security forces from Afghanistan in 2014, the Council will likely be interested in the OSCE’s role in the transition process, including the OSCE decision to send an election support team to assist in the presidential and provincial elections in April.

Turning to country situations not on the Council’s agenda, some Council members especially the EU members and the US, may wish to use this opportunity to specifically address the recent political crisis in Ukraine as this will the first briefing on the situation in Ukraine. Violent clashes between protesters and authorities have prompted widespread condemnation by the international community. On 19 February Burkhalter expressed concern about the violence, urged the opposition and authorities to engage in dialogue and offered OSCE assistance in facilitating the process. The following day, the EU imposed targeted sanctions—an asset freeze and visa ban—against those responsible for human rights violations in the Ukraine. On 21 February Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych signed a deal with the opposition, ending the political crisis and agreeing to hold early elections this year. However, later that day he fled Kiev. On Saturday Ukraine’s parliament voted to remove Yanukovych and on Sunday it granted expanded powers to interim speaker, Oleksandr V. Turchynov, who can now carry out the duties of the president of Ukraine. Council members are likely to be interested in an assessment of the developments over the week-end as well as the possibility of early elections and the role OSCE might play in this.

Other regional issues not on the Council’s agenda that will likely be covered in the briefing include mediation efforts in frozen conflicts in Southern Caucasus. Recent tensions along the contact line between Azerbaijan and Armenia may be raised by some Council members. Burkhalter could provide information on the 20 February meeting between Azerbaijan’s Defense Minister, Colonel-General Zakir Hasanov and the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman, Andzei Kaspshik, on the situation.

The Swiss chairmanship will also focus on other global challenges such as transnational threats to security. Among other issues, Switzerland has also decided to address during its chairmanship the policy of providing disincentives to kidnapping by paying no ransom. This issue could be of particular interest to the Council in light of recently adopted resolution on a similar topic in the context of countering terrorism (S/RES/2133). Burkhalter could also address the promotion of human rights, management of natural disasters, arms control, strengthening mediation capacities and increasing political participation among youth.

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