The messenger logo

OSCE presence must continue for all people of the region

Op-ed by the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis
Monday, March 23
War returned to the OSCE region last summer. The tragic loss of life and the hardship endured by all peoples affected by the conflict have made it clear that we, the OSCE participating States and the international community as a whole, must redouble our efforts to ensure that such tragic events are not repeated and that needless suffering is avoided.

The Greek 2009 OSCE Chairmanship is committed to acting as an honest broker and working with its partners, and first and foremost Georgia, to support the people and achieve lasting security in the region. That is the OSCE’s goal and its efforts must be allowed to continue.

The OSCE’s unarmed military monitoring officers patrol every day in areas adjacent to South Ossetia to preserve security and stability on the ground; security and stability that are all too fragile. The OSCE participating States agreed by consensus on 12 February to extend the mandate of the monitors until the end of June. This decision shows that we all agree that the Organization is a key part of international efforts in the region.

The decision to keep our military monitors on the ground does not affect the mandate of the OSCE Mission to Georgia, which is now in the process of discontinuation. The OSCE Mission has been working since 1992 to support the resolution of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict, help consolidate democratic institutions, and to promote the rule of law and respect for fundamental freedoms. Since the August war, the Mission has worked tirelessly to assist the military monitors and, most importantly, to help stabilize the situation on the ground.

I have made my position clear from the very start: the current crisis demands that the OSCE should do more in Georgia, not less. The OSCE’s experience in the region, its diverse toolbox, its inclusiveness and its comprehensive approach to security are invaluable assets for the international community.

Despite the ongoing administrative discontinuation of the Mission, the Greek Chairmanship is pursuing intensive negotiations in Vienna and in various capitals to maintain an OSCE presence in the country.

The OSCE is also working at the highest levels to ensure security and address humanitarian problems. The OSCE is co-chairing the Geneva discussions with our partners the European Union and the United Nations. Under this format the sides were able to agree on working-level mechanisms to tackle security-related incidents in the region, including weekly meetings to handle incidents and potential crisis situations.

With the support of the OSCE, urgent humanitarian issues – such as the supply of natural gas – are being addressed, and we are also working to help restore potable and irrigation water supplies to the region.

It is critical that the OSCE be allowed to carry on its important work. To that effect, I encourage Georgia and all the parties involved to continue to show a constructive spirit in the negotiations and the political will and flexibility needed to forge a commonly acceptable solution to the benefit of peace and stability for the entire region.