LIVE BLOG: Genuine dialogue or a series of monologues?
Today 54 foreign ministers attended the opening and first session of the OSCE Ministerial Council (MC) meeting in Basel. The first day of the MC meeting revealed that eastern and western OSCE states have fundamentally differing views on the root causes of the Ukraine crisis, however they seem to agree that the crisis has been aggravated by an erosion of trust among them.
Western states continue to maintain that the current crisis in and around Ukraine is the result of the pressure of one state against another. Western states all mentioned that they considered the annexation of the Crimean peninsula by the Russian Federation illegal and a breach of the Helsinki Final Act, as well as a violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. As US Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized “when rules are broken they need to be enforced not rewritten.” Western states also reiterated their call on Russia to halt the inflow of weapons, equipment and troops from across the Russian border into eastern Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov presented his country’s take on the crisis. He referred to the eastern expansions of NATO and the EU as well as to the establishment of a missile defence system which all contributed to a deterioration of relations between East and West. He mentioned that the security of some states should not be ensured at the expense of the security of other states. Foreign Minister Lavrov also stressed that a single economic space, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, should be established which should not only include EU members.
Although the Ministerial Council plenary hall at the conference center in Basel was decorated with huge letters reading the word “DIALOGUE”, there was a general impression that the MC meeting was more a series of monologues and statements outlining the different views by participating States.
That said, foreign ministers did attend a dinner together on the eve of the MC meeting in order to create an atmosphere for genuine dialogue. In addition, an informal lunch was held today for foreign ministers, at which the Swiss Chairmanship took the initiative to launch a Panel of Eminent Persons that will be tasked with elaborating recommendations on how to reconsolidate European security as a common project.
After a full day of meetings Didier Burkhalter, Swiss Foreign Minister and OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, once more proved his leadership capacity and statesmanship as he presented a Chairmanship summary of the day’s discussion to the media despite the strong differences between participating States. He stressed the fact that participating States are united in the conviction that there is no military solution to the Ukraine crisis and that the crisis can only be solved by diplomatic means and inclusive political dialogue, the very “raison d’être” of the OSCE.