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Please enter the digits in the box below:  |  Interviews  |  Lamberto Zannier: Russias active stance is instrumental for moving forward on...


October 23, 2012

Lamberto Zannier: Russias active stance is instrumental for moving forward on our vision of a free, democratic, common and indivisible Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security community

Lamberto Zannier, secretary general of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, is in Russia on a visit these days. Zannier has given an interview to Interfax.

Q.: What is the purpose of your visit to Moscow, and what priority issues are you planning to raise with the Russian leadership?

A.: The Russian Federation is a key stakeholder in the OSCE and its sustained and constructive engagement in the work of the Organization is essential. My visit here today is part of my regular dialogue with participating States, which takes place both in Vienna and in the respective capitals.

Today the world and all of us - our communities, our countries and our regions face a number of global challenges that demand global and co-ordinated strategies, as well as the adaptation of existing structures. Economic crisis, new security threats of increasingly transnational nature, consequences of the Arab Spring, deeply worrying developments in the Eastern Mediterranean, situation in Afghanistan all this has a direct and serious impact on the security in our larger region, and all this creates uncertainty in our lives.

What implications all of these factors may have on the OSCE region, how our Organization can help to effectively deal with the emerging challenges in politico-military, economic and environmental, and human rights areas, and how Russia views and contributes to the process these will be the key topics of my meetings with Minister Lavrov, Deputy Foreign Minister Grushko, as well as with the heads of the Russian delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.

In light of the current and future challenges, we will discuss regional matters such as the protracted conflicts in the OSCE region and the situation in Central Asia. Especially in the light of the expected 2014 transition in Afghanistan we will discuss border security issues, transnational threats, including terrorism, organized crime, and trafficking - the threats that many of our participating States, including Russia, are facing.

Russias active stance on promoting the principle of indivisible security is instrumental for moving forward on our vision of a free, democratic, common and indivisible Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security community. It is only through a collective effort of governments, parliamentarians, regional organizations, and with a contribution from the academic community and civil society that we will be able to make this vision a reality in the OSCE region. This is one of the key items on our agenda within the OSCE and also a key topic to be discussed at our annual Ministerial Council meeting in December in Dublin.

I am also looking forward to an exchange of views on this and other security issues with the Secretary General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, and a lecture at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

Q.: How do you assess Russias role in the OSCE? Russia has long insisted that the organization needs reforming and should have a charter. Do you believe that the OSCE is in danger of being disbanded? Many experts and politicians claim that the organization fails to cope with many of its tasks and that, in some respects, it duplicates other European bodies.

A.: Russia is a very active participating State of the OSCE that frequently makes suggestions and proposals to develop an agenda and to improve our functioning. Other countries also have ideas and suggestions and this makes for a lively debate. The fact that so many countries are so actively engaged in the OSCE is very positive, even though ideas often differ. But then, this has always been the role of the OSCE: building trust by bridging differences in a community that shares basic principles and values but that, at the same time, is politically, socially and economically very diverse.

I do not believe that the OSCE is in danger of being disbanded, mainly because I am convinced that there is still much need for it today. Though the Cold War is well behind us, the OSCE remains the only forum where states from the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian space meet and co-operate on the basis of equality. The community of values that the OSCE represents based on voluntarily accepted political commitments- has not been replicated by any other international or regional organization. And more importantly- the goal identified in 1975 is not yet mission accomplished. The 40th Anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act provides an excellent opportunity to consolidate approaches with a view to strengthen the OSCE contribution to establishing a security community by 2015. With this in mind, this years Irish Chairmanship of the OSCE launched the Helsinki +40 process, which would also help the Organization to sharpen its working processes and refocus its agenda.

All organizations have to constantly find ways of doing things better and more efficiently and this is also true for the OSCE. During my meetings in Moscow, we will discuss with my interlocutors the current and future focus of our Organization and ways to make it more effective, able to respond in the best way to the needs of our participating States and to the current security threats.

As for the OSCEs role vis-à-vis other European bodies, an us versus them approach would be wrong. The unique feature the OSCE is inclusiveness. We unite 56 states from Europe, North America and the former Soviet Union including all members of the EU and the CIS, NATO and the CSTO. We are not there to replace these organizations we are there to create synergies. Moreover, we already work with them on the basis of a Platform for Co-operative Security, seeking to promote the full implementation of the OSCE commitments and complement each others capabilities in addressing matters of shared concern related, for instance, preventing and resolving conflicts, promoting confidence-building measures, addressing transnational threats and dealing with human rights issues both in the political dialogue and in the projects in the field.

Q.: Moscow has long assumed that the OSCEs activities are practically limited to election monitoring, and believes that the organizations assessments of elections are not always objective. What is happening to other areas of OSCE activities, the military and political ones, for example? How effective are OSCE efforts in trying to settle protracted conflicts in Europe and in the Commonwealth of Independent States?

A.: Not all of our activities get the same media attention as election monitoring. Other activities, especially those in the political/military area, such as confidence building measures, are by their nature much less high profile; nevertheless they are just as important in our comprehensive approach to security.

If you just look at our website you will see that daily we are working on a wide variety of issues such as border management, combating human trafficking, combating terrorism, conflict prevention, economic activities, gender equality, good governance, minority rights, policing and many others.

You mention the protracted conflicts. Making progress on resolution of the protracted conflicts has been one of the priorities of the Irish Chairmanship and of the OSCE as a whole.

Progress has been made on the Transdniestrian settlement. Since the restart of official talks last year, an agreement was reached on the principles, procedures and agenda of the talks. The sides have also agreed to meet more often, to intensify dialogue on human rights issues as well as to establish a joint forum for dialogue with civil society and media from both sides. We have seen some positive developments on the ground as well, including the re-opening of rail freight traffic through Transdniestria and the disposal of radioactive waste. We expect to build on the positive developments during the next round of the 5+2 talks to be held in Dublin this November.

When it comes to Nagorno-Karabakh everyone is concerned about the absence of progress, and the deterioration of the situation on the ground, with 28 people killed only this year. I personally share this concern. We continue to support the efforts of the Minsk Group and its Co-Chairs Russia, France and the US. However, no international efforts can be effective if there is no political will on both sides to negotiate a peaceful solution. This is what I stressed during my recent meetings with the respective foreign ministers in New York. Returning to the substance of the negotiations and looking ahead are the only ways to prevent escalation and bring the long-awaited security to the region.

As for Georgia, the OSCE together with the EU and the UN co-chairs the Geneva international discussions, launched after the August 2008 conflict. This is the only format involving all stakeholders, including the representatives from Tbilisi, Sukhumi and Tskhinvali. Representatives of the new Georgian government were present at the latest round of Geneva discussions in October which was very much welcomed. Based on the statements so far,I am confident the new government of Georgia will be committed to and involved in the Geneva discussions in a positive and constructive manner.

We are continuing to work on projects to improve the lives of people in the conflict-affected areas during the summer we began the implementation of a new one-million euro EU-funded project, to provide potable and irrigation water supply to several hundreds of families living on both sides of the administrative boundary line.

Q.: What practical contribution has the OSCE made to processes and mechanisms launched by international negotiations in Geneva on security and stability in the Caucasus? Do you believe that there is any need for further Geneva talks now that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvilis party has lost a parliamentary election?

A.: The Geneva international discussions are the only framework to address the consequences of the 2008 conflict. As I already mentioned, the representatives of the projected government were present already at the latest round of Geneva discussions in October. Based on the statements so far, I am confident the new government of Georgia will be committed to and involved in the Geneva discussions in a positive and constructive manner.

An important practical result of the Geneva international discussions was the establishment of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms (IPRMs). The Ergneti IPRM now meets on a monthly basis, and has proved to be an effective mechanism under which practical activities on the ground are discussed such as the security of farmers, especially during the harvest season, exchange of detainees, and water supply projects for the people in affected territories. Our goal is to build trust and help to resolve the problems affecting peoples lives.

Q.: Does the OSCE still see its presence in South Ossetia and Abkhazia as essential?

A.: An OSCE presence would increase the scope of our activities on the ground. Naturally, it would also help us more effectively work on the projects we are running in the region. However, any decision on a field presence of the OSCE its mandate, modalities and scope of work can only be taken by a consensus decision of all 56 participating States of the OSCE. The issue of restoring the OSCEs presence in Georgia has been repeatedly raised without success.

Q.: What role will the OSCE have in tightening control of the borders of Central Asian countries after NATO forces leave Afghanistan? Is any practical work being done in preparation for this? Is the OSCE involved in any economic projects in that region? There have been reports that the OSCE will take a major part in building transit corridors.

A.: The security situation in Afghanistan has a direct impact on the OSCE area: the country borders three participating States of the OSCE. We are paying close attention to the region in the run up to 2014, as Afghanistan prepares to take on greater responsibility for its own security. Our Central Asian participating States are in the driving seat in this process. Our main focus is to support them in developing the necessary capacities to address threats emerging from Afghanistan

We are also supporting Afghanistan through our activities in Central Asia. This also helps to strengthen confidence between our Central Asian participating States and Afghanistan. It also brings the relevant officials and government agencies together. For example we are training Afghan border and customs staff alongside their Central Asian counterparts at the OSCE Border Management Staff College in Dushanbe. Out of 900 trained officials, more than one third are from Afghanistan, including about 60 women. We also jointly train Tajik border troops and Afghan border police representatives to enhance their patrolling and surveillance skills.

In Domodedovo, Russia, we helped to train Afghan law enforcement officers on fighting drug trafficking.

Since the OSCE is about comprehensive security, we try not to limit our co-operation to politico-military aspects, but expand it to cover economic and environmental, as well as human dimension. A couple of weeks ago we completed a business training project for female entrepreneurs from small and medium enterprises in Afghanistan. To promote legal trade between Afghanistan and Tajikistan our Office in Tajikistan has helped to set up free economic zones near the Tajik-Afghan border.

Q.: A while ago, the Collective Security Treaty Organization put a proposal before the OSCE for jointly evolving basic principles for monitoring national elections in OSCE member states in order to avoid "double standards". Russia is determined to lobby this proposal at the upcoming OSCE Ministerial Council meeting. What is your opinion of this? How is the OSCE going to respond to this proposal?

A.: All participating States, including Russia, made a commitment to conducting elections in line with the principles outlined in the OSCE Copenhagen Document and to invite observers from OSCE/ODIHR to monitor compliance with these principles. ODIHR as an OSCE Institution has been given a mandate by all 56 countries to perform this important role in strengthening democracy in our region. I believe that there are no elections that have been observed by ODIHR where there was no room for improvement.

We are open to all legitimate views voiced by all participating States, including Russia, on the ways to increase the effectiveness of the OSCE.

Q.: When and where will the next Ministerial Council meeting take place, and what will it focus on?

A.: The next meeting of foreign ministers of OSCE participating States will take place in Dublin on 6-7 December this year. We will look at the progress weve achieved in implementing decisions taken in Vilnius, and examine priority directions for moving forward. Currently we are discussing with our 56 countries the areas where we are going to reach a conclusion or take a decision. Issues related to the economic and environmental dimensions, including good governance, as well as to human dimension, including matters related to promoting tolerance and non-discrimination are very much on our agenda.

Q.: Has there been any progress at the OSCE-overseen negotiations on a new treaty on conventional armed forces in Europe? When is the current deadlock likely to be broken? Does the OSCE have any plans to press the United States to withdraw its tactical nuclear weapons from Europe?

A.: I am convinced that the OSCE region is in no less need of modern arms control arrangements and confidence- and security-building measures, than before, and I regret the current impasse in the arms control negotiations. This state of affairs is currently under review and the incoming Ukrainian OSCE Chairmanship has announced that this will be an issue on their agenda in 2013. The full implementation of existing arms control instruments would help re-build trust and the common expertise that existed for years; on the other hand, the protracted impasse, especially on conventional arms control, may require some fundamental rethinking of the way forward. I am planning to organize an open event in Vienna next March with a mix of independent experts and representatives of interested States, to brainstorm on the way forward. In any case the OSCE is not there to press any of our participating States, but rather a platform for dialogue where all of them can discuss how to address specific security issues not only between the governments, but also with the participation of academia, experts and the civil society.

Q.: How do you assess situation with human rights and opposition in Russia? And how would you comment on the verdict of Russian court regards Pussy Riot case that is 2 years of sentence?

A.: I am aware of concerns about recent developments related to human rights situation in Russia, particularly those related to the work of NGOs, the situation with human rights activists and freedom of assembly. OSCEs Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights is ready to offer its expertise to review the draft legislation.

As for the second part of your question, I would like to refer to the statement that the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media issued following the verdict, in which she emphasized the need to protect freedom of expression.


U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Huntsman, who will leave his post in early October, has given an interview to Interfax in which he speaks about exchanges at the highest level between Moscow and Washington, a possibility of Russias return to G8, as well as his vision of the future of U.S.-Russian relations.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has given an interview to Interfax in which he speaks about the U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty on that is expected on August 2, about Russia‘s response to the U.S. and NATO possible deployment of missiles banned by the treaty, and about whether the Cuban Missile Crisis may repeat itself.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will hold negotiations on the sidelines of the Petersburg Dialogue forum in Germany on Thursday. Maas has given an interview to Interfax ahead of the forum, in which he speaks about prospects of settling the conflict in Ukraine, Germanys preparations for ensuring security in the absence of the INF Treaty and attempts to save the Iranian nuclear deal.

German Ambassador to Russia Rudiger von Fritsch, who is leaving Moscow after a five-year mission, told Interfax about the state of affairs in bilateral relations, Germanys position on the Nord Stream 2 project amidst sanction risks, and assessed prospects for settling the crisis in Ukraine under the new authorities in Kyiv.

U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has given an interview to Interfax in which he speaks about results of the trilateral meeting on Afghanistan settlement that took place in Moscow on April 25, prospects of the intra-Afghan meeting in Doha, and Russia‘s role in the Afghan issue.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has given an interview to Interfax ahead of the Alliances 70th anniversary that is to be celebrated on April 4. He speaks in the interview about the NATOs vision of future relations with Russia, its attitude to the situation surrounding the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) Treaty and the New START Treaty, as well as further plans of expanding the Alliance.

British Ambassador to Russia Laurie Bristow has given an interview to Interfax in which he speaks about the current situation in the relationship between the United Kingdom and Russia, the impact of the Skripal case on it, the restoration of the numbers of diplomatic staff, exchange of information on counter-terrorism, possible introduction of sanctions over the Kerch Strait incident, the INF Treaty, and British-Russian economic relations.


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