A Eurasianet partner post from RFE/RL
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has concluded its two-day summit with a declaration of their principles. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, whose country holds the 2010 OSCE Chairmanship, called the declaration a "historic success." There was no agreement, however, on an action plan on international conflicts and reforms. World leaders at the summit in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana, acknowledged that the OSCE has been unable in recent years to fulfill its task of preventing and resolving conflicts in Europe and former Soviet republics. 'Spirit Of Unity' Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi also made an unscheduled plea to the summit to "show a true spirit of unity and spell out specific objectives" for the OSCE's future. Kazakh Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabaev, who is the current OSCE chairman in office, tried to portray developments in a positive light after talks on December 1 between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Nazarbaev on the sidelines of the Astana summit. "The sides agreed that the effective chairmanship of Kazakhstan, including hosting in Astana the first OSCE summit of the 21st century, has given a new impetus to the activity of the organization in strengthening of security and developing cooperation in the sphere of OSCE responsibility," he said. But the 56 member countries in the group operate by consensus -- meaning any single country can block the final communique and the "framework for action" that diplomats hope will define its future role. Privately, diplomats said agreement on a new OSCE action plan was being delayed because of references to specific controversial issues -- including Moldova's breakaway Transdniester region, lingering Russia-Georgia tensions, and the Armenia-Azerbaijan dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh. Russia-U.S. Disagreements The OSCE was established as a Cold War forum to resolve tensions between East and West. It has struggled to retain its relevance in the face of unresolved, long-standing conflicts among member states and new threats such as terrorism, border security, and cybercrime. On December 1, before Clinton left for neighboring Kyrgyzstan, she and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev urged a revamp of the OSCE so that it is better able to cope with the security threats of the 21st century. But at the same time, they highlighted issues of disagreement between Russia and the United States -- including sharply different views on the conflict between Georgia and its breakaway regions, which Moscow supports. Clinton blamed Russia for blocking the creation of an OSCE mission in Georgia. Medvedev accused Georgia of using impermissible force in its brief 2008 war over the breakaway region of South Ossetia. Meanwhile, the OSCE's so-called Minsk Group issued a statement on December 1 saying the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia had agreed that the time has come for more decisive efforts to resolve their dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Ethnic Armenian forces backed by Yerevan won control of Nagorno-Karabakh from Azerbaijan in a war that ended with a cease-fire in 1994, but clashes along the cease-fire line have continued, claiming the lives of more than 20 soldiers on both sides this year. Caucasus Tensions The December 1 statement says Armenia's President Serzh Sarkisian and Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev reaffirmed their commitment to seek a final settlement to that conflict. But on December 2, the Armenian president told the summit in a speech that Azerbaijan was not interested in resolving the conflict. Instead, Sarkisian said Baku was trying to cause as much harm as possible to Armenia. Sarkisian also said that if Azerbaijan took aggressive actions over Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia would have no other option but to de jure recognize the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh republic and exert every effort to ensure its security. The Astana summit is the last major event in Kazakhstan's chairmanship of the OSCE before Lithuania takes over the rotating office.
Copyright (c) 2010. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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