The European Union and its Member States wish to take this opportunity to thank you, Ambassador Sadigbayli, and your able team for your efforts in chairing the FSC in times of war.
Usually, we refer to a “challenging trimester” – but this would be a serious understatement this time. In the middle of your Chairpersonship, a brutal war of aggression was launched by one participating State, Russia, against another, Ukraine. Due to this, our Forum had to switch into crisis mode – business as usual was not and is no longer possible.
We are deeply shocked by the news about massive atrocities committed by the Russian armed forces in a number of occupied Ukrainian towns that have now been liberated. Haunting images and reports of large numbers of killings and barbaric acts against innocent civilians as well as destruction of civilian infrastructures show the true face of the brutal war of aggression Russia is waging against Ukraine and its people. The perpetrators of such crimes will be held accountable. Denials we are hearing from Russia lack any credibility.
Mr. Chair, we therefore must reiterate our strongest condemnation of this unprovoked and unjustified aggression against Ukraine. By its illegal military actions, Russia is grossly violating international law, the principles of the UN Charter and the OSCE acquis, thereby jeopardizing European and global security and stability. We also deplore the complicity of Belarus in enabling and supporting the Russian military aggression by providing its territory for the attack on its neighbour. Ukraine has an inherent right to defend itself against this invasion and to choose its own future and destiny. Russia bears full responsibility for its acts, including the loss of life, massive displacement and all the destruction it is causing.
This war and the war crimes committed will remain a bloody stain on the reputation and the conscience of those who decided to wage it, those who were conducting criminal and abhorrent acts and all those who were trying, futilely, to justify these atrocities, including in the diplomatic sphere. Russia attempts to destroy Ukraine and its statehood, but in reality it is also destroying its own future. We reiterate our unwavering support to the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and independence of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders and demand that Russia – as ordered by the International Court of Justice – immediately and unconditionally cease its military actions and withdraw all its troops.
Mr. Chair, we firmly believe that the use of force and coercion to change borders has no place in the 21st century. Tensions and conflicts should be resolved exclusively through dialogue and diplomacy, which is what our organization, the OSCE, stands for. The resolution of all the conflicts in the OSCE area remains a top priority of the European Union and we will continue our efforts to that end.
Mr. Chair, Russia’s behaviour has radically undermined our politico-military acquis. The Vienna Document is considered a key set of confidence and security building measures to provide for military transparency and predictability. We have seen how these important provisions were disregarded on the eve of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Russia and Belarus deliberately flouted the Risk Reduction Mechanism, one of the cornerstones of the VD, with Russia refusing any cooperation while Belarus was only pretending to follow the letter but was not following the spirit of the provisions. Belarus claimed the Russian troops were to leave Belarus after the joint drill but in reality they took part in the invasion. Risk reduction mechanism is of no avail if one participating State has an intention to attack another participating State. Nonetheless, we wish to thank Azerbaijan for chairing, together with Poland as OSCE Chair, the respective joint FSC- PC meetings.
We also underline the importance of respecting, in particular in the times of war, the provisions of the Code of Conduct with regard to international humanitarian law. The responsibility of superiors does not exempt subordinates from their individual responsibilities with regard to exercising the command authority in accordance with international law. Each and every perpetrator will be identified and held accountable for war crimes committed in Ukraine.
Mr. Chair, there is no doubt that Russia’s premeditated aggression of Ukraine will cast a long shadow on geopolitics, and on the workings of the OSCE and of this Forum for Security Co-operation. Security cooperation presupposes as a basic premise the existence of good will and trust. Russia has completely shattered this hard-earned trust by its actions. For us, it is clear that as long as this war of aggression continues there cannot be “business as usual”. The EU and its Member States are united and determined on putting continuous pressure on Russia to end the brutal war Russia has unleashed on Ukraine, to end the bloodshed and human suffering. The EU and its Member States are standing by the people of Ukraine in their darkest hour. We call on Russia to stop this war. And when the war is over, it will still take a lot of time and effort to retrieve the minimum of trust on which a fruitful work in our Organisation could be based. In the meantime, we hope that the important role of this Forum can be preserved. However, difficult times lie ahead of us!
I request that this statement be attached to the Journal of the Day.
The Candidate Countries REPUBLIC of NORTH MACEDONIA*, MONTENEGRO*, and ALBANIA*, the EFTA countries ICELAND, LIECHTENSTEIN and NORWAY, members of the European Economic Area, as well as REPUBLIC of MOLDOVA, UKRAINE, GEORGIA, ANDORRA and SAN MARINO align themselves with this statement.
Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.