Caucusus after Georgia-Russia war - a main theme at OSCE meeting

The Caucusus region after the recent war between Russia and Georgia was one of the main themes when foreign ministers from the 56-nation Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) meet Thursday, the Finnish foreign minister said Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, who holds the rotating chairmanship, said the ministers were also to discuss proposals for a new European security structure floated by among others Russia and France, dpa reported.

Missing among the some 50 foreign ministers due in Helsinki would be US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who has travelled to India in an attempt to avert tensions from worsening between India and Pakistan after the recent attacks in Mumbai.

Stubb, who met Rice on Tuesday in Brussels, said it was a "correct move," adding that Rice's absence did not signify that the United States was less interested in the OSCE that has members on both sides of the Atlantic and in Central Asia.

The OSCE evolved from the Helsinki process that in 1975, during the Cold War, saw the signing of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Stubb said the OSCE was "still very valid," but there was need to look at how it could be refreshed.

Later this month, Russia and Georgia - who fought over the latter's breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia - are due to meet for a new round of talks in Geneva.

Next week, OSCE officials were to visit Moscow for talks on extending the mandate of OSCE military observers in South Ossetia. The observers were key as they "provide objective information about the events," Stubb said.

Stubb said he was fairly optimistic that the meeting will adopt a political declaration, "the first in six years."

OSCE decisions hinge on unanimity, and previous meetings have failed to bridge differences to agree on a document.

Stubb said he would "withdraw" the declaration if there were any attempts to water down the language concerning core OSCE values like "human rights, democracy, fundamental rights, non-violence in conflict resolution."

The OSCE's activities include election monitoring, and it has also been engaged in efforts to solve so-called frozen conflicts involving the breakaway regions of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan and Transnistria in Moldova.

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