OSCE should play a bigger role in the South Caucasus in working toward peaceful settlement of protracted conflicts and democratic processes in the region. This was the consensus during the meetings in Baku, Yerevan, and Tbilisi, as the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Kazakhstan’s Secretary of State and Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev, visited the three capitals on his first visit to a region with the organization’s field presence on February 15-17.
He used the trip to get firsthand knowledge of the current positions of sides involved in the region’s protracted conflicts, as well as to meet with leaders of governments, parliaments, and political parties to hear about the OSCE contribution in the progress of human dimension in the three member states of the Vienna-based organization.
Saudabayev in Baku: There is no alternative to a peaceful solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem
On the first day of his South Caucasus tour, Kanat Saudabayev met with the top leadership of Azerbaijan, including President Ilkham Aliyev, Chairman of Parliament Oktay Asadov, Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, as well as leaders of the Azeri community of Nagorno-Karabakh and of Azerbaijan’s major political parties.
President Aliyev expressed his sincere hope that the Kazakh chairmanship in the OSCE brings substantial positive advances in strengthening international security in Europe and South Caucasus. He also said he looked forward to Kazakhstan’s input in the progress of negotiations between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the conflict between the two nations.
The Chairman-in-Office reiterated the OSCE’s readiness to give new impetus to the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and support the mediation process, and suggested drawing on shared history to achieve progress.
“There is no alternative to a peaceful resolution of the problem based in the first place on trust and mutual understanding between the sides to the conflict,” he said following a meeting with the head of Azerbaijan’s Foreign Office.
“Kazakhstan is the first ex-Soviet state to chair the OSCE, and we will seek to fully utilize the shared history and similar mentality of our peoples, as well as the trust and good relations between our countries' leaders to achieve possible progress in resolving the protracted conflicts in a peaceful way,” Saudabayev said. “I fully support the mediation efforts of the Minsk Group Co-Chairs, and pay tribute to the confidence-building work of my Personal Representative Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk.”
He underscored the key tools of the Kazakh OSCE Chairmanship to address protracted conflicts will be monitoring, identification of any signs of a potential escalation, and the use of preventive mechanisms, including political consultation within the OSCE framework.
The Chairperson-in-Office said he believed Azerbaijan will continue to work together with the OSCE institutions on improving the legal media environment in the country and coordinating monitoring of parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan in November, building on the progress shown in the 2008 presidential election. He also underscored the readiness of the Organization to support democratic reforms in the country.
Meetings in Yerevan: dialogue between neighbours key to peaceful settlement, stability
On his visit to Armenia, the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office emphasized the importance of building trust between the sides of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and praised steps towards normalization of relations with Turkey. He discussed these and other related issues with Armenia’s President Serzh Sargsyan, parliamentary leaders, Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandyan, leaders of the country’s political parties and of the Armenian community of Nagorno-Karabakh.
President Sargsyan expressed hope the visit by the OSCE Chairman-in-Office would allow him to get profound understanding of the region’s problems and make a worthy contribution to seeking a peaceful settlement of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Saudabayev said that addressing the region’s protracted conflicts is one of the top priorities of the Kazakh OSCE Chairmanship, and added: “A peaceful settlement based in the first place on mutual understanding and trust between the parties to conflict is the only solution possible.”
He underscored the importance of strengthening tolerance and mutual understanding between the peoples of Azerbaijan and Armenia, and reiterated the readiness of the Kazakh OSCE Chair to contribute to the process in co-operation with all stakeholders.
The Chairperson-in-Office said open dialogue between neighboring states was a foundation of regional stability. “We welcome the concrete steps to normalize the relations taken by Armenia and Turkey, hope to see further progress in this positive undertaking and stand ready to support efforts to restore trust between the two countries.”
Talking about other aspects of the interaction between the OSCE and Armenia, Saudabayev noted the positive role played by OSCE institutions and the Office in Yerevan in reforming election legislation, police and judiciary, and in solving environmental problems.
OSCE Chairperson visits Georgia, reiterates support for peaceful settlement of conflict, democratic reform
On the last day of his tour of the South Caucasus, Saudabayev held talks in Tbilisi with Speaker of the Parliament David Bakradze and Foreign Minister Gregory Vashadze, as well as leaders of the nation’s major political parties.
Saudabayev reiterated the OSCE’s support for the Geneva Discussions, and the Organization’s readiness to support democratic reform processes, including elections.
“Addressing protracted conflicts, including those in the South Caucasus, is one of the top priorities of the Kazakhstan's OSCE Chairmanship,” he said, following a meeting with Foreign Minister Gregory Vashadze. “We are strongly committed to continuing our efforts aimed at assisting peaceful resolution of the conflict, based on the work carried out by our predecessors.”
Saudabayev welcomed Georgia’s commitment to resolve the outstanding problems within the framework of the Geneva Discussions.
“No matter how difficult and complex the process may be, we strongly believe that maintaining the ongoing dialogue is vitally important, and the only way forward,” he said. “We welcome Georgia’s constructive and pragmatic approach to the talks.”
The Geneva Discussions started in October 2008. The OSCE co-chairs the discussions, along with the EU and the UN.
The Chairperson-in-Office has called for the resumption of activities of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) dealing with Georgian-Ossetian issues, which has not met since October 2009. “The holding of regular IPRM meetings is crucial to promote communication and reduce tensions on the ground,” he said. “We believe the OSCE could contribute to the work of the IPRM.”
Saudabayev reiterated the OSCE’s readiness to support Georgia in its democratic reform process.
“We believe the upcoming municipal elections in May will provide opportunities for Georgia to further demonstrate its commitment to political pluralism and international standards for free and fair elections,” he said.
“We welcome the invitation extended by the Georgian authorities to the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights to observe the elections.”
The ODIHR’s needs assessment mission was deployed to Georgia on February 16 and stayed until February 18.