Joint Statement in reply to the President of the Int. Committee of the Red Cross

1349th Permanent Council of the OSCE, 16 December 2021.

Madam Chair,

On behalf of Andorra, Canada, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, San
Marino and Switzerland, I would like to thank the President of the ICRC,
H.E. Peter Maurer, for his address to the Permanent Council on the
activities and priorities of the ICRC in the OSCE area and beyond.
President Maurer, we are aware that you are incredibly busy, and we
appreciate you taking the time to brief the Permanent Council personally.

President Maurer,

As you pointed out, the humanitarian situation in the conflict area in
eastern Ukraine remains grim. Which is why the presence of the ICRC in
the conflict-affected areas, as well as its support to the population,
unfortunately remain as important as ever. You also mentioned the
restrictions the ICRC faces with respect to access to persons held in
relation to the conflict. We agree: It is disgraceful that so little progress is
being made in this respect, and we would like to strongly underline the
importance of ensuring the ICRC’s access to all persons held in relation
to the conflict, in accordance with its mandate and modalities.

The humanitarian role played by ICRC in the conflict between Armenia
and Azerbaijan remains crucial. It is important to advance jointly with the
ICRC in any matter relating to its mandate. Let me take again the opportunity to call upon Armenia and Azerbaijan to strictly comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law. They must allow and facilitate the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for civilians in need. Respecting and protecting the rights of all persons, including civilians and persons hors de combat as well as displaced and returnees, is pivotal.

ICRC’s efforts for the missing, the detainees and their families
throughout the OSCE area remain tireless. This is highly appreciated, and
we would like to thank you and your able and dedicated staff, President
Maurer, for these efforts.

Beyond the human tragedy, unsolved cases of persons unaccounted for
can affect efforts to rebuild trust and address grievances in societies. This
is unfortunately the case in a number of conflicts in the OSCE area, where
people continue to search for their missing relatives. With regard to all
matters pertaining to persons unaccounted for and their families, we
therefore underline the importance of the establishing co-ordination
mechanisms which involve all stakeholders.

You briefly mentioned Afghanistan, too. And we agree: The complex
humanitarian, economic and political situation in Afghanistan is of great
concern. The ICRC has been present in Afghanistan for over 30 years and
made valuable contributions for the wellbeing of the Afghan population.
We support the search for pragmatic solutions to ensure that humanitarian
organizations like the ICRC have unimpeded and sustainable access, and
can maintain their operational capacities to assist and protect the
population in desperate need. The dire situation in the country also affects
the security and stability of the OSCE region, in particular, but not only,
the participating States bordering Afghanistan. Which is why we call for reflections on how the OSCE can assist in ensuring that support will
continue beyond emergency humanitarian assistance.

President Maurer,

This is most likely your last address to the Permanent Council in your
current position. On behalf of the delegations of Andorra, Canada, Iceland,
Liechtenstein, Norway, San Marino, and Switzerland, I would like to stress
that your appearances over the year at this Council were always highly
appreciated. You were always frank with us, and never failed to draw our
attention to the real humanitarian situation across the OSCE area and
beyond. For this, our delegations would like to thank you sincerely.

We hope to see you again, maybe in a different setting, and maybe in a
different function, and we are looking forward to welcoming your appointed
successor, H.E. Mirjana Spoljaric-Egger, to this Council soon.

Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you again, Mr. President, for briefing
us today.