Every Additional Day of Moscow’s War Prolongs Human Suffering in Ukraine, Intergovernmental Organization Chair Tells Security Council
Federal Councillor Calls Aggression ‘Greatest Challenge to Cooperative Security in Europe, Central Asia’
Addressing the Security Council today with “a call for an immediate quest for peace”, the Head of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) stressed that, while a terrible battle rages in Europe, war is neither a necessity nor destiny, as he outlined the regional group’s focus for 2023.
Bujar Osmani, Minister for Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia and current Chairperson-in-Office of the OSCE, observed that, while the organization was designed to reinforce stability and cooperation by enhancing trust and dialogue “from Vancouver to Vladivostok”, stability has been shattered, confidence has been lost and dialogue — if any still exists — has become poisonous. Noting that the motto of his country’s OSCE chairmanship is “it’s about people”, he said that North Macedonia chose this approach because politics is not about winning or losing — rather, it is about the lives, hopes and dreams of the people that leaders represent.
“Every additional day of aggression prolongs human suffering,” he stressed, urging the Russian Federation to end the war in Ukraine and withdraw its troops from that country’s sovereign territory. Noting that OSCE “is not just a platform for dialogue between non-like-minded countries” — but also a community of nations supposedly sharing a common vision of peace and stability — he underscored that “human lives are the most precious thing”. Urging the joint pursuit of peace, he added: “After all, it’s all about people.”
In the ensuing debate, many Council members welcomed OSCE’s contributions to regional stability, economic development and environmental protection across Europe. They also called on the organization to support comprehensive security through dialogue, including in the contexts of ongoing tensions in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and the Republic of Moldova, also urging close cooperation between OSCE and the United Nations. Members also discussed the OSCE’s role amidst the ongoing war in Ukraine, with some invoking the spectre of the cold war to centre that discussion.
Albania’s representative recalled that the close of the cold war was, in a sense, “a second European renaissance”, ending a divided continent and allowing for greater cooperation between nations based on shared values. However, while the cold war is over, he stated that “its spirit has been forcefully brought back” by the Russian Federation’s imperial appetites. OSCE must address this and other challenges, he observed, including cyberattacks conducted by State actors.
The representative of Ghana said that the Russian Federation’s war of aggression against Ukraine has become the epicentre of a global political upheaval, accompanied by military expenditures that have surged to cold war levels. OSCE must reassert itself as a credible interlocutor for finding a lasting solution to the conflict between Moscow and Kyiv — and in the wider conversation on future European security architecture — she stressed.
China’s representative, similarly, called on OSCE to scale up efforts towards peace talks and mediation and to achieve security through cooperation, rather than confrontation. He also urged the organization’s member States to abandon the zero-sum thinking of the cold war and bloc politics, underscoring that one’s security can only be achieved by taking others’ security seriously.
Meanwhile, Ignazio Cassis, Federal Councillor and Head of the Federal Department for Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, said that Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine represents the greatest challenge to cooperative security in Europe and Central Asia. Noting that OSCE’s primary responsibility to protect civilians is its link with the United Nations, he pointed out that OSCE and other regional organizations can contribute to the New Agenda for Peace by focusing on prevention and sustainable peace.
The representative of the Russian Federation, however, said that OSCE not only failed to achieve its main task relating to the Minsk agreements, but also became “an accomplice to the Western side” and a “tribune for Russophobic discourse”. While OSCE’s current chairmanship has not managed to create a unified agenda, he nevertheless noted that the organization still has a chance to work out a platform for dialogue and peaceful coexistence.
Taking the floor a second time in response, Mr. Osmani stressed that he will be an “honest broker” to enable a conducive atmosphere for dialogue aimed at upholding OSCE’s principles, which include respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, the non-violation of borders and the non-use of force to achieve political gains.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 11:49 a.m.
BUJAR OSMANI, Chairperson-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and Minister for Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia, said that his address today is “a call for an immediate quest for peace”. A terrible war rages in Europe, the possible consequences of which are grave enough to endanger peace and security globally. While OSCE was designed to reinforce stability and cooperation by enhancing trust and meaningful dialogue “from Vancouver to Vladivostok”, he observed that stability has been shattered, confidence has been lost and dialogue — if any still exists — has become poisonous. Against that backdrop, he stressed that the United Nations and OSCE should stand together and work to promote peace, as no organization can do this alone. Further, as security challenges continue to evolve, the nature of this cooperation must evolve as well to become more pragmatic and action-oriented. Noting that the motto of his country’s OSCE chairmanship is “it’s about people”, he said that this approach was chosen because politics is not about winning or losing — rather, it is about the lives, hopes and dreams of the people that leaders represent.
Noting that the Russian Federation’s current, full-scale aggression erodes OSCE’s foundations by violating the Helsinki Final Act, he urged Moscow to end the war and withdraw its troops from Ukraine’s sovereign territory. “Every additional day of aggression prolongs human suffering,” he observed, also stating that accountability is both a moral imperative and the most effective means to “avoid this happening again in any other place”. Detailing other areas on which OSCE will focus in 2023 — namely, protracted conflicts and the work of its field operations — he said that it aims for peaceful, comprehensive solutions to the situation involving Armenia and Azerbaijan. In Georgia, OSCE is supporting continued dialogue, the channels for which must remain open to address the consequences of the 2008 conflict. On that point, he said that it was “unfortunate” that, in the twenty-first century, yet another “wall of separation” divides the population affected by that conflict. He also noted his plans to visit OSCE field missions in South-East Europe, welcoming progress between Belgrade and Pristina and detailing plans to reinforce reconciliation and trust-building in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
He went on to stress that, despite differences, OSCE will continue to promote human security through support for sustainable economic growth, environmental cooperation and basic human rights. And, while the challenges facing OSCE are significant, they are not insurmountable. Noting that OSCE “is not just a platform for dialogue between non-like-minded countries” — but also a community of nations supposedly sharing a common vision of peace and stability — he underscored that “human lives are the most precious thing”. War is neither a necessity nor destiny, he stressed, urging the joint pursuit of peace. “After all, it’s all about people,” he added.
IGNAZIO CASSIS, Federal Councillor and Head of the Federal Department for Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, Council President for the month, speaking in his national capacity, said Moscow’s military aggression against Ukraine represents the greatest challenge to cooperative security in Europe and Central Asia, calling once again on the Russian Federation to stop its aggression and immediately withdraw its troops from Ukrainian territory. The OSCE’s primary responsibility to protect the civilian population is the link between the organization and the United Nations. It is the largest regional security organization in the world, he said, adding that its field presence in 13 countries has a stabilizing effect in regions such as the Western Balkans, the Caucasus and Central Asia. The OSCE has mechanisms that document the most serious human rights violations, such as the Moscow Mechanism in Ukraine. By focusing on prevention and creating sustainable peace, OSCE and other regional organizations can make an important joint contribution to the implementation of the New Agenda for Peace proposed by Secretary-General António Guterres. As the fiftieth anniversary of the Helsinki Accords draws near, OSCE must remain the benchmark for the common peace and security architecture in Europe, he stressed.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) recalled that the end of the cold war was a transformative event for both Europe and the world, as it ended a divided continent; stopped a climate of fear, mistrust and instability; and allowed for greater cooperation between nations based on shared values. It was, in a sense, a “second European renaissance”, he observed. However, while the cold war is over, he stated that “its spirit has been forcefully brought back” by the Russian Federation’s imperial appetites, dreams and plans. That country’s barbaric attacks on Ukraine, nuclear sabre-rattling and escalatory decision to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus are just a few examples of its deliberate policy to destabilize OSCE by reviving the fear of major confrontation. Condemning Moscow’s ongoing, unjustified military aggression against Ukraine, he noted that OSCE also faces other challenges, including unresolved conflicts in Georgia and the Republic of Moldova. Further, increasing reliance on digital technology and communication has created new security threats, as cyberattacks — especially when conducted by State actors — have implications for critical infrastructure, government systems and the private sector. OSCE must address these, too, he added.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) noting OSCE’s vital contribution, through its autonomous bodies, voiced support for its efforts to facilitate a peaceful resolution of the conflicts in Georgia and the Republic of Moldova, as well as Nagorno-Karabakh. The OSCE’s work across all dimensions underpins the region’s common security and prosperity, he added, voicing support as well for its actions on economic development, environmental protection and climate change. He welcomed OSCE’s ongoing work through the Moscow Mechanism to expose violations and abuses of international humanitarian and human rights law, including reporting on the brutal crackdown on political and media freedoms in Belarus, and holding the Russian Federation to account for its actions in Ukraine. The publication today of OSCE’s Moscow Mechanism report on the deportation of Ukrainian children once again highlights the immense suffering caused by the Russian Federation’s war, he added. To fulfil its role, OSCE relies on participating States to fulfil their commitments, but the Russian Federation is choosing instead to obstruct the organization by delaying key decisions on its budget, blocking leadership appointments and frustrating the work of its human rights institutions. He urged all 57 OSCE participating States, including the Russian Federation, to support the organization and ensure it is fully functional and adequately funded to deliver on its important work.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) said that, although OSCE has not always been successful in avoiding the resort to arms as evidenced by the collapse of the Minsk agreements, it would nevertheless be regrettable if it ceases to be a forum for frank dialogue on issues of common interest. In that regard, he lamented the incident in OSCE’s Parliamentary Assembly in February 2023 and expressed his hope that the impasse over its presidency in 2024 can be overcome. The seriousness of the crises in Europe and Central Asia demands that OSCE members return to its traditional spirit of cooperation, he underscored, voicing his concern over the escalating tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Since the unimpeded movement of people and goods through the Lachin corridor is vital to prevent the collapse of an already precarious humanitarian situation, Yerevan and Baku should avoid rhetoric conducive to violence and engage in dialogue to peacefully settle their differences. Regarding the conflict in Ukraine, he pointed out that OSCE can play a constructive role if its members abandon the logic of isolation and engage in a sincere effort towards dialogue.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta) welcomed the steps OSCE has taken to embrace issues relating to economic and environmental cooperation, including climate change. She also welcomed the latest visit of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, to Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, affirming her country’s commitment to contributing to the dialogue between Yerevan and Baku and to peace and stability in the South Caucasus. Noting the dire humanitarian consequences that have resulted from the blockade of the Lachin corridor, she urged all relevant parties to cease any actions impeding humanitarian access. She pointed out that while all OSCE participating States have reaffirmed their commitment to using peaceful means to settle any disputes, the Russian Federation continues to blatantly violate the Charter of the United Nations and the founding principles of OSCE enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act and subsequent key documents. She once again urged the Russian Federation to stop the war, withdraw its military forces from the entire territory of Ukraine, and turn to dialogue and diplomacy. The Russian Federation must also implement without delay the recommendations of the latest Moscow Mechanism report and take all necessary measures to allow the return of the displaced or forcibly displaced children to Ukraine and to their families.
MOHAMED ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates), recognizing the benefits of regional cooperation in maintaining international peace and security, said OSCE is facing a fundamental challenge due to the war in Ukraine. The conflict has exacerbated food insecurity, nuclear risks and polarization, also causing divisions within the organization, he added. Commending the Kosovo-Serbia agreement — facilitated by the European Union — he said more work needs to be done in the Western Balkans, while pointing to hate speech issues in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Recognizing that for decades OSCE has served as an important forum for strengthening understanding and promoting dialogue in Europe, he spotlighted its constructive engagement and wide membership. These aspects must remain at the heart of the organization to enable it to address conflicts on the continent, he noted, adding that “OSCE’s diplomacy and de-escalation efforts are needed now more than ever”.
KHALILAH HACKMAN (Ghana), voicing her concern over the heightened security situation in Europe, called for new and creative ways to strengthen collective capacities to address security threats. Now in its fifteenth month, the Russian Federation’s war of aggression against Ukraine has become the epicentre of a global political upheaval, and its resulting food, energy and fuel crises continue at record levels. At the same time, military expenditures have surged to cold war levels and some States have peeled away from non-proliferation agreements. Against this concerning backdrop, there must be an immediate cessation of hostilities in Ukraine. For its part, OSCE must reassert itself as a credible interlocutor for finding a lasting solution to the conflict between Moscow and Kyiv and in the wider conversation on Europe’s future security architecture. She also underlined the importance of keeping channels of engagement open to defuse tensions elsewhere in Europe. Moreover, OSCE must engage with other regional bodies especially those in Africa, build synergies and harmonize efforts. If OSCE is to remain the foremost security organization in Europe outside of the United Nations, its members must work past their differences to provide it with the necessary resources and support to stay relevant in the twenty-first century, she underscored.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon) said that OSCE has demonstrated its service to peace for its 57 member States, even as its role and stabilizing nature are being severely tested today. At the heart of these challenges is a “crisis of confidence” among OSCE member States, he observed, noting questions about the nature and scope of the social contract within the organization and about commitments made by member States in line with OSCE’s foundational documents. Further, latent tensions in Europe are accompanied by a sociopolitical context characterized by nationalism and other cross-border challenges. These are compounded by the war in Ukraine, not only because of its humanitarian and security consequences, but also through pressure on member States to choose between one of the two camps involved in that confrontation. Calling on OSCE to use its mechanisms for the peaceful settlement of disputes, he also urged it to play a stabilizing role in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina. He added that it must work at all levels “to ensure that negotiation wins over the logic of war”.
ISIS MARIE DORIANE JARAUD-DARNAULT (France), underscoring the need to build on OSCE’s instruments, said her country has contributed €1.5 million to the Support Programme for Ukraine. She called for the immediate and unconditional release of OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine personnel still detained by the Russian Federation and its proxies. Welcoming the invaluable contribution of OSCE’s human dimension institutions and instruments in documenting crimes committed by the Russian Federation in Ukraine, she said the published reports invoking the Moscow Mechanism document Russia’s massive and systematic violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. Voicing concern about the worsening human rights situation in Belarus, she condemned the complicity of President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime in the illegal and unjustified military aggression led by the Russian Federation against Ukraine. OSCE must continue to devote its resources to preventing and settling conflicts in Europe, she underscored, voicing support for the negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Affirming her country’s unwavering support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia and the Republic of Moldova and for OSCE’s role in settling the ongoing conflicts, she called on the Russian Federation not to obstruct the extension in June of OSCE’s Mission to Moldova.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) said his country became OSCE’s cooperation partner in 1992 and since then has participated in every OSCE Summit and Ministerial Council. Enhancing efforts towards democratization and regional stability, Japan has provided experts for OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine; financially contributed to tackling human trafficking in that region; and strengthened border control capacity in Afghanistan and Central Asia. Peace and stability in the organization’s region are directly linked to that of the Asia-Pacific region. Recognizing that the international community finds itself at a historic turning point, he reiterated a call to OSCE to support de-escalation of the current situation in Ukraine. The need for comprehensive security through confidence-building based on dialogue is greater than ever, he stressed, reiterating Japan’s commitment for further cooperation with OSCE in maintaining and fortifying the international order based on the rule of law.
PEDRO COMISSÁRIO AFONSO (Mozambique) commended the crucial role of OSCE in maintaining peace on the European continent since its inception by actively shaping the democratic transitions which lay the ground for the prosperity witnessed in post-cold-war Europe. OSCE remains as relevant today in all matters related to peace and security in Europe and is a valid interlocutor in multilateral, regional and subregional organizations throughout the world which share the same mandate, he underscored. Yet, at this critical juncture when the international security architecture is under immense stress and facing multiple headwinds, OSCE together with the United Nations and other regional organizations must step up to restore the necessary safeguards for a peaceful and prosperous world. Even though the war in Ukraine has severely tested OSCE and other similar regional frameworks, the world still requires renewed dialogue and diplomacy to de-escalate the conflict to both build trust and revise the European security arrangement. In looking beyond Europe, he pointed out that OSCE has an important role to play in strengthening its partnership with the United Nations — especially on conflict prevention and resolution — and enhancing the effectiveness of common efforts.
GENG SHUANG (China), spotlighting OSCE’s rich experience in conflict prevention and resolution, urged the organization to scale-up efforts towards peace talks and mediation; balance the interests and concerns of all parties; encourage member States to abandon the zero-sum thinking of the cold war and bloc politics; resolve disputes through peaceful negotiation; and achieve security through cooperation, rather than confrontation. Only by taking others’ security seriously and safeguarding the security of all “can we achieve our own security”, he stressed. He went on to state that China’s position on the Ukraine issue remains consistent and clear: the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be safeguarded; the legitimate security concerns of all parties should be taken seriously; and all efforts conducive to the peaceful resolution of the crisis should be supported. He added that his country’s position on Armenia and Azerbaijan has not changed, calling on both countries to resolve their issues peacefully though dialogue and negotiation to jointly safeguard regional peace and stability.
HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador), voicing his support for further cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations, encouraged OSCE member States to cooperate in good faith with OSCE institutions and their field operations while prioritizing the human dimension. The OSCE Chairman should not waver in his intention to focus on issues such as border security, the fight against terrorism and transnational crime, cybersecurity and the nexus between climate change and security, he added, calling also for the strengthening of OSCE activities on the women, peace and security agenda. He then encouraged OSCE to continue to work with host communities in its conflict prevention efforts and address the situation of internally displaced persons, one which particularly affects women and girls. OSCE and its members should also expand their efforts in the fields of arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament to contribute to United Nations efforts towards a world free of nuclear weapons and any other weapons of mass destruction. “Just yesterday, we met in this room to discuss the issue of future-proofing trust for sustainable peace — undoubtedly the challenges we are facing today require closer cooperation,” he pointed out.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said the systematic actions of the United States and their allies to create a “Russophobic nationalist and neo-Nazi entity” along his country’s borders triggered a crisis. Noting that the world will no longer be multipolar, — as the Pax Americana is “nearing its end” — he said the place and the role of international organizations remains open. Recognizing OSCE’s “deepest” crisis, he underlined that it was used as an instrument “in the West’s crusade” against the Russian Federation. However, its system of regional security — based on the principle of indivisible security “from Vancouver to Vladivostok” — was truly unique in nature, he observed. Yet the United States’ attempts to keep the North-Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) dominant, as well as that country’s withdrawal from a number of international treaties, caused an erosion of the global and regional security. More so, OSCE has not only failed to achieve its main task in the Minsk agreements, but it also became “an accomplice to the Western side” and a “tribune for the Russophobic discourse”. Lamenting the termination of the OSCE Minsk Group, he said the current Chairmanship has not managed to create a unified agenda. The organization, however, still has a chance to work out a platform for dialogue and peaceful coexistence, he observed.
JEFFREY DELAURENTIS (United States) noted that OSCE has been at the forefront of the international community’s efforts to shine a light on the actions of the Russian Federation’s military forces in Ukraine. Through its superb fact-finding and reporting, the OSCE Moscow Mechanism and its rapporteurs have revealed the violence of the Belarus regime’s efforts to suppress dissent, as well as the Kremlin’s crackdown on all voices critical of its policies and efforts to strangle the media. Regional organizations and their cooperation with the United Nations are more important than ever in helping to maintain international peace and security, he stressed, adding that OSCE’s close cooperation with the United Nations is essential to ensuring that the Council can deliver on its mandate for international peace and security. He also welcomed the cooperation between OSCE and the United Nations as they work together in preventing the reignition of violence in post-conflict situations. Despite the Russian Federation’s efforts to obstruct the organization and sabotage its budget, OSCE has continued to operate, contributing to regional peace and security, including with the donor-funded Support Programme for Ukraine, to replace the Special Monitoring Mission that the Russian Federation forced to close.
Mr. OSMANI took the floor a second time to respond to comments by the representative of the Russian Federation regarding his neutral position as Chairperson-in-Office of OSCE. Reiterating that OSCE is a platform for dialogue among non-like-minded countries, he pointed out that such dialogue takes place within the organization’s framework — which all member States voluntarily agreed to uphold and obey. Those principles and commitments are non-negotiable, and his role is to safeguard the same. He stressed, therefore, that he will be an “honest broker” to enable a conducive atmosphere for dialogue aimed at upholding such principles and commitments, which include respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity; the non-violation of borders; and the non-use of force to achieve political gains.