Special representative: EU should dedicate resources to prevent conflicts in South Caucasus

Special representative: EU should dedicate resources to prevent conflicts in South Caucasus

Azerbaijan, Baku, Feb. 10 / Trend E. Tariverdiyeva /

The unresolved conflicts in the South Caucasus continue to represent the  primary threats to the region's stability, EU Special Representative for the South  Caucasus Peter Semneby said.

"The unresolved conflicts in the South Caucasus continue to represent the  primary threats to the region's stability," EU Special Representative for the South  Caucasus Peter Semneby said at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna today, emphasizing that the security situation in Nagorno-Karabakh was of particular concern.

Semneby called for the ceasefire arrangement to be strengthened, and for the  EU and other international actors to step up engagement in Georgia, Armenia  and Azerbaijan.

"EU engagement in the South Caucasus must continue to be visible, strong  and consistent," he said.

"International actors need to remain fully committed in efforts to  stabilize, manage and resolve the conflicts," he said.

In particular this includes a  strong engagement of the OSCE throughout the region.

The loss of the OSCE  Mission in Georgia has been very keenly felt by OSCE's partners, he said.

The OSCE Mission in Georgia was closed in June 2009 as the 56 OSCE  participating States could not reach consensus on continuing its mandate.

Semneby also discussed the EU's Eastern Partnership with the South  Caucasus and challenges to democratic development in the three countries.

The Eastern Partnership is aimed at the political and economic rapprochement of six post-Soviet states - Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus - and the EU. The program does not provide opportunities for EU membership, but involves facilitating the visa regime, energy cooperation and the introduction of free trade zones.

He emphasized the importance of dedicating resources to conflict prevention.

"Due to further conflict potential in the region, conflict prevention  remains an indispensable priority alongside the handling of the existing  protracted conflicts," he said.

"Conflict prevention and mitigation  require a human security approach in addition to the political approach of  official negotiations and security-related deployments. This approach focuses  on the role of individuals and requires a different set of instruments by the  international community, such as support to civil society to allow for a  strengthened civic culture and community dialogue," he said.

He underlined that the OSCE remained a key partner and platform for the EU  in the South Caucasus, particularly in the area of democracy promotion, rule of law, human rights, and freedom of the media, he said.

"I am therefore convinced that the OSCE needs to find a way re-launch its  human dimensions activities in Georgia. These activities should not be held  hostage by the conflict agenda. The termination of the mission left not only  a vacuum in the field of conflict prevention and resolution but also in the  area of democratization and human rights," he said.

The Permanent Council is one of the OSCE's main regular decision-making  bodies. It convenes weekly in Vienna to discuss developments in the OSCE area  and to make appropriate decisions.

The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan since 1992, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and 7 surrounding districts.

Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group - Russia, France, and the U.S. - are currently holding the peace negotiations.

Armenia has not yet implemented the U.N. Security Council's four resolutions on the liberation of the Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding regions.

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