The European Union and its Member States welcome the convening of this Joint PC –FSC meeting by the Polish and Azerbaijani Chairs at the request of the delegationsof Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Such discussion on the ongoing unusual military activities on the territory of Belarus is indeed urgently needed as the information provided so far cannot be considered satisfactory.
We are following very closely and with grave concern the massive build-up of Russian troops near the borders of Ukraine, in and around the illegally annexed Crimean peninsula, and now also in Belarus. The scale of this build-up seriously undermines European security and stability. We call on Russia to immediately reverse its build-up, withdraw its forces in accordance with its international obligations and commitments and choose the path of de-escalation and refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State.
In this context, we fully support the invocation of the risk reduction mechanism as foreseen in paragraph 16 of the Vienna Document last Wednesday by Lithuania, also on behalf of Latvia and Estonia. We have all signed up to the Vienna Document precisely to reduce military risks and misperceptions and to build trust among participating States. It constitutes a key element of our common security.
We took note of the explanations provided by Belarus on 11 February and at the bilateral meeting organized by the OSCE Chair on 14 February. We appreciate that Belarus honoured the Vienna Document in engaging in a dialogue. However, we consider that the pertinent questions raised by our colleagues and partners have not been answered adequately and comprehensively. In particular detailed information regarding the Russian-Belarusian exercise “Union Resolve 2022”, time lines regarding the return of the troops involved to their peacetime locations as well as other unusual military activities carried out by the Russian Federation Armed Forces on the territory of Belarus and in the border areas of Belarus is of essence. Hence, we welcome the meeting today and reiterate our call on Belarus, as well as on the Russian Federation, to exercise full transparency and to dispel serious concerns about the activities in question. When transparency and trust are in short supply, any provocation, aggressive rhetoric or the spread of disinformation can have dire consequences.
We, together with our partners, will continue to closely monitor the situation and will react decisively to any further development.
As regards measures for clarifying the situation as well as halting activities that give rise to concern, the European Union and its Member States recommend to use all relevant provisions under the Vienna Document and other CSBMs to the fullest, and in particular:
- to Belarus
- to provide, in accordance with its commitments under the Vienna Document, full transparency on its military activities, and those of the Russian Armed Forces, in particular the total number of troops, major weapons and equipment systems used for each location of the exercise, the units and formations these Russian and Belarusian military forces belong to, and the exact return date of Russian units and formations back to their peacetime locations;
- to host a visit to the exercise area to dispel concerns about the unusualmilitary activity in accordance with paragraph 18 of the ViennaDocument, as well as to open its territory for inspection visits where thespecified area could be inspected for any potentially notifiable militaryactivity;
- to take steps to de-escalate the situation and to engage in a meaningfuldialogue and constructive consultations;
- to participating States to use the verification mechanism as stipulated in Chapters IX and X of the Vienna Document 2011, keeping in mind the relevantnational procedures to execute verification missions under COVID conditions;
- to the participating States involved to regularly brief the FSC, in particular onmilitary activities in border areas.
Mr. Chair, I kindly request that these recommendations and our statement today be attached to the Journal of the Day.
The Candidate Countries the REPUBLIC of NORTH MACEDONIA*, MONTENE-GRO* and ALBANIA* and the EFTA countries ICELAND, LIECHTENSTEIN and NORWAY, members of the European Economic Area, as well as UKRAINE, the RE-PUBLIC OF MOLDOVA and GEORGIA align themselves with this statement.
*The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to bepart of the Stabilisation and Association Process.