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Published:December 6th, 2006 04:43 EST
State's Burns Urges 56-Nation Group To Help End Frozen Conflicts

State's Burns Urges 56-Nation Group To Help End Frozen Conflicts

By SOP newswire

Washington -- A senior U.S. diplomat has urged the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to play a larger role in ending frozen " regional conflicts, but also warned the 56-nation group that some members seek to undermine their shared commitment to democratic values.

The path to reform of the OSCE lies through action on the real challenges of our time, " R. Nicholas Burns, under secretary of state for political affairs, said December 4 in Brussels, Belgium. Addressing the organization`s 14th annual ministerial council, Burns said the United States believes the OSCE has the ability to find lasting settlements to the so-called frozen conflicts in southeast Europe, where many ethnic minorities fought for independent enclaves during and after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Burns visited Brussels as part of a three-nation trip. He traveled next to Paris for talks on the Iran nuclear issue, and was scheduled then to travel to India. (See related article.)

The OSCE is the world`s largest regional security organization, with 56 participating states from Europe, Central Asia and North America. It is active in early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation. The OSCE`s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights observes elections and monitors human rights.

Since its Cold War-era founding, the OSCE has played a significant role in helping to rebuild communities based on a model of tolerance and respect for others, " Burns said.

Unfortunately, recent years have seen efforts to degrade these principles by some signatories, " Burns warned. The very commitments that are the bedrock of our shared values are increasingly brought into question. "

Burns said there are too many examples of backsliding by some OSCE states, " particularly Belarus.  Examples include using administrative rules to keep candidates off ballots; denying access to public media for opposition parties; restricting freedom of assembly and detaining human-rights defenders; harassing  nongovernmental organizations; intimidating and attacking journalists; and using criminal court systems to silence critics and limit freedom of expression.

We should emerge from this ministerial [council] rededicated to enlisting OSCE to affect positive change, " Burns said.

The United States over the past year has offered numerous ideas aimed at reinvigorating the OSCE`s core missions, he said.

" In Georgia, the OSCE should expand its activities in South Ossetia and press authorities in that breakaway region to take demilitarizing steps matching those taken by the government of Georgia. OSCE should increase the number of monitors with access to the entire region, including the Roki Tunnel, currently controlled by South Ossetian separatists and a Russian peacekeeping force. Burns invited Russia to play a major role in the search for confidence and peaceful resolution of these frozen conflicts. (See related article.)

" On Nagorno-Karabakh, Burns thanked Russia and France " co-chairs of the Minsk Group " for working with the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia to develop a reasoned approach which promises to lead to a negotiated settlement. " Burns urged OSCE to call on leaders to implement a peaceful settlement based on those discussions and agreements. (See related article.)

" In Moldova, the United States has called for an immediate resumption of talks on the region of Transnistria. The OSCE should support Moldova`s unilateral disarmament steps and demand similar reductions from the Transnistrian side, he said. The United States continues to call for a resumption of Russian military withdrawal. (See related article.)

" The United States also has proposed strengthening the OSCE`s Personal Representatives on Tolerance, and has called for an OSCE conference on anti-Semitism in 2007.

" The United States and other OSCE members have pushed for OSCE involvement in fighting the sexual exploitation of children.

" Russia and the United States have proposed that the OSCE embrace a concept for fighting terrorism through public-private partnership. (See related article.)

" The OSCE mission in Kosovo should be given a clear mandate to continue to support the transformation of Kosovo, Burns said. He added that OSCE should contribute wherever possible in the implementation of a future-status settlement for Kosovo, expected to be proposed by the United Nations following Serbian elections in January 2007. (See related article.)

The full text of Burns` remarks is available on the U.S. Mission to the OSCE Web site.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: