OSCE Ministers agree Chairmanship bids, greater engagement in Afghanistan

Increased OSCE support to Afghanistan and the OSCE Chairmanships for the 2009-2011 period were agreed by foreign ministers and high-level representatives from the 56 participating States at the 15th Ministerial Council, which ended today in Madrid.

The ministers agreed that Greece, Kazakhstan and Lithuania will hold the OSCE Chairmanship for 2009, 2010 and 2011 respectively, following Finland's term in 2008.

"The OSCE is more alive than ever. It faces news challenges, new goals in the 21st century, it is an Organization that matters, and it represents the best platform for debate, for consensus to build in this continent of ours and beyond into Asia, and beyond that still," said the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos at a press conference following the conclusion of the meeting.

"It is not a battlefield here, it is a field for dialogue. Ten decisions have been adopted today, all reflect the commitment of participating States to move forward. We have the political strength to use dialogue. In the long run we will get consensus thanks to this Organization, which has given the opportunity to all to express themselves."

Spain, which holds the OSCE Chairmanship for 2007, hosted the two-day gathering, which achieved consensus on a wide range of decisions, reflecting the priorities of the Spanish Chairmanship and the OSCE's comprehensive approach, which encompasses the politico-military, environmental and economic, as well as human, aspects of security.

On Greece, Kazakhstan and Lithuania's successful bids for the Chairmanship, Minister Moratinos said: "All participating States have expressed their satisfaction for the progress achieved at this meeting. The main one is continuity and stability, and here we are thinking in particular on the agreement on future Chairmanships. For the first time there will be a guarantee of these from now until 2011. This is an achievement of all participating States."

The Ministerial Council approved a decision to step up the OSCE's engagement with Afghanistan, with a particular focus on intensifying OSCE action to help secure and manage borders between the OSCE's Central Asian countries and Afghanistan, train police, and support the fight against drug trafficking.

The decision follows a request for assistance in these areas by Afghanistan in September. An OSCE project to train Afghanistan's anti-drug police was launched at the beginning of November.

"For the first time the Organization will address and commit itself to working in the future on security in Afghanistan. With this new contribution, this new involvement of the Organization in Afghanistan we hope to bolster our security and we acknowledge the link between OSCE countries and the problems and challenges which exist in Afghanistan. The Organization can lend its knowledge and its experience in border control security, the fight against drug trafficking, illegal trafficking in weapons - many achievements which could help to bring about greater stability and security in Afghanistan," said Minister Moratinos.

He also underscored the groundwork laid out in Madrid to ensure the continuation of the OSCE's work in Kosovo: "It's possible to achieve consensus on the need to renew the OSCE's mandate for its presence in Kosovo."

The OSCE Minsk Group, which is chaired by the United States, France and Russia, presented a set of basic principles for the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to Armenia and Azerbaijan in Madrid. The OSCE Ministers noted the two countries' agreement to continue negotiations next year.

Decisions were also agreed on, among other matters, public-private partnerships to counter terrorism; protecting energy infrastructure from terrorist attack; combating sexual exploitation of children over the Internet as well as trafficking in human beings for labour exploitation; promoting tolerance and non-discrimination; and water management and environmental security.

The Spanish Chairmanship's priorities, announced at the start of its term in 2007, focused on the fight against terrorism, promoting mutual respect and understanding, protecting the environment and strengthening the OSCE's role as a forum for dialogue.

Minister Moratinos highlighted the challenges that continue to face the Organization, in particular with respect to the election monitoring activities of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, ODIHR.

"One of the main assets this Organization possesses is what is done by ODIHR and the Parliamentary Assembly. We need to look again in the future how to best handle these valuable tools we have at our disposal. We need to continue to support ODIHR and we need to continue to support its mandate and autonomy and we must continue lending all our support, as has been the case under the Spanish Chairmanship," he said.

He also called on participating States to agree on holding a Summit with the 56 Heads of State. The last Summit was held in Istanbul in 1999.

"As Spanish Foreign Minister and as Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE I am more convinced than ever that we need to convene a Summit of Heads of State and government so they will have to commit to move things forward. They will have to ensure that we bring about this reform and adapt the OSCE to this 21st century," he said.

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