ASRC Session 1 – Conflict and Crisis Situations in the OSCE Area: Building Security and Confidence

Annual Security Review Conference – Working Session I: Conflict and Crisis Situations in the OSCE area: building security and confidence

As delivered by Deputy Assistant Secretary Kathleen Kavalec
Vienna, June 26, 2018

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and thanks very much to our panel of Ambassadors, for all the efforts over the years to help in these protracted conflicts. We really appreciate the brainstorming and the ideas that they brought forward. I think these are essential to making progress.

The ASRC is an ideal forum for discussing these protracted conflicts in the OSCE area and for seeking to identify ways ahead.

The protracted conflicts related to Georgia, Moldova, and the Nagorno-Karabakh region have shown that as the days, months, and years pass, there are more lives lost and economic potential wasted. We need to do more to bring these conflicts to an end. Our discussion today should serve as an opportunity to reflect on where we are and what impediments remain to re-building peace. Despite some instances of progress–notably in the 5+2 context – the fact remains that these conflicts have yielded profound sub-regional instability and hampered economic growth and potential.

The OSCE has a responsibility to act as an impartial observer that can report facts on the ground and leverage its political capital to announce when behavior is unacceptable. The closure of OSCE presences in Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia has left a critical vacuum. It is high time to have a real conversation on re-establishing an OSCE footprint in the region, including by restoring its field presences. Last week’s visit of 25 Permanent Representatives to the South Caucasus should give us ample food for thought – and action – on possibilities for restoring the OSCE’s presence in this important region.

In Moldova, we welcome the substantive progress in the Transnistrian Settlement Process that was endorsed at the 5+2 meeting in Rome in May. We wholeheartedly support the goal of achieving a comprehensive, peaceful, and sustainable settlement of the conflict based on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Moldova, with a special status for Transnistria within Moldova’s internationally-recognized borders. We welcome the opening of the OSCE mission’s field office in Tiraspol, which will facilitate fulfillment of its mandate. We urge all sides to accelerate progress on implementation of the “package of eight” deliverables to the fullest extent possible, and we appeal to all participating States to support the sides in achieving this goal.

Ten years ago, Russian military aggression in Georgia resulted in a Europe-wide crisis, which has had long-lasting consequences, particularly for those in the region. The United States is an active participant in the Geneva International Discussions, and we support its efforts to address the situation in Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions. Lack of access to those regions has been an abiding source of humanitarian and security concerns since 2008. One way to address this would be with establishment of an OSCE mission with access to all of the internationally recognized territory of Georgia to shed light on the real situation on the ground. Expanding freedom of movement along the administrative boundary lines would also yield benefits to families and neighbors The United States believes the OSCE can play a larger role in addressing the conflict in Georgia, which would allow the international community to focus on pressing humanitarian and security needs.

The United States takes seriously its role as one of three co-chair countries of the Minsk Group and remains committed to finding a peaceful negotiated settlement to the conflict related to the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The deaths and injuries that occur every year from intermittent gunfire and occasional use of artillery systems, including land mines and mortars, demonstrate the continued threat that this conflict poses. In October, 2017, the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan took a positive step by meeting in Geneva under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group and agreed to intensify negotiations and work together to reduce tensions on the Line of Contact. We were also encouraged by recent meetings between the co-chairs of the Minsk Group and senior officials of Armenia and Azerbaijan.  We call on both sides to fulfill the commitments made at the Geneva Summit, as well as the important commitments made in Vienna and St. Petersburg in 2016. We encourage the sides to return to substantive negotiations as soon as possible and welcome the possibility of a ministerial meeting in the near future.

How do we begin to build peace where none exists, or where mutual suspicion prevents progress? There has to be more that we can do as an Organization. Full implementation of the Minsk agreements and an end to harassment of the SMM would be a step forward. Progress toward resolving the protracted conflicts would help reduce threat perceptions and pave the way for peace and stability in the OSCE area.

The United States looks forward to continuing our discussions on this issue as we prepare for the Ministerial Council in Milan this December.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.