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State Duma Chair and Head of the Russian Delegation to the OSCE PA Sergey Naryshkin (right) and Head of the Ukrainian Delegation to the OSCE PA Oleg Zarubinskyi speak during the debate on Ukraine, 3 October. (photo courtesy of the Swiss Parliament/Fabio Chironi)State Duma Chair and Head of the Russian Delegation to the OSCE PA Sergey Naryshkin (right) and Head of the Ukrainian Delegation to the OSCE PA Oleg Zarubinskyi speak during the debate on Ukraine, 3 October. (photo courtesy of the Swiss Parliament/Fabio Chironi)
GENEVA, 3 October 2014 – OSCE parliamentarians from three continents engaged in a wide-ranging and at times emotional debate on the continuing crisis in Ukraine during the opening day of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Autumn Meeting in Geneva.

Nearly three dozen OSCE parliamentarians from Canada to Kazakhstan and Germany to Georgia participated in the debate, including Russian State Duma Chair and Head of the Russian Delegation to the OSCE PA Sergei Naryshkin and Head of the Ukrainian Delegation to the OSCE PA Oleg Zarubinskyi.

Many speakers emphasized the threat that the conflict poses to the tenets of the OSCE and the need for both sides to match pledges with real commitment to a truce and a diplomatic solution.

Simon Lunn of the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, one of two keynote speakers to precede the debate, asked parliamentarians to consider the broader implications of the crisis: “In the search for common security structures, we have to assume we speak the same language and are playing by the same rules. If not, ideas of common security structures will remain just that – ideas.”

Astrid Thors, the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, highlighted the importance of a having a new Ukrainian parliament that represents all citizens, as well as the need protect the rights of Crimean Tatars and the importance of maintaining genuine dialogue across Ukraine on language legislation.

In opening the debate, OSCE PA President Ilkka Kanerva (MP, Finland) stressed the importance of having open communication on the crisis, urging parliamentarians to take a constructive approach and seize the opportunity for dialogue within the PA.

State Duma Chair Naryshkin told the Assembly that Russia saw “no alternative to a political exit from the crisis in Ukraine” and decried the deaths of civilians in the country’s east. He also urged an OSCE investigation into allegations of human rights violations by Ukraine and called for dialogue on these important issues.

Ukrainian Delegation Head Zarubinskyi said that “peace is not made by those who just talk of peace,” urging Russia to genuinely reciprocate what he described as Ukraine’s implementation of steps to de-escalate the crisis. He also called for three-way monitoring of the Russian-Ukrainian border by representatives of both countries plus the OSCE, arguing that the step would support an expedited end to the conflict.

Andreas Aebi, the Head of Switzerland’s Delegation to the OSCE PA, was one of several speakers to refer to the death of a Swiss aid worker in eastern Ukraine on 2 October, urging the parties to the conflict to abide by the provisions of the OSCE’s Minsk Protocol to stem civilian casualties.

OSCE PA Vice-President Doris Barnett (MP, Germany) also highlighted the toll that the continuation of the conflict has on average Ukrainians.

“With winter coming, obstinacy will not help to warm people’s houses and flats,” she said, urging Russian and Ukrainian MPs to return to the table together under the auspices of the Parliamentary Assembly.

In other interventions, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the Chair of the Kazakh Senate, questioned the efficacy of sanctions in response to the crisis.

Joao Soares of the Portuguese Delegation to the OSCE PA emphasized the need to consider conditions for the return of those who have been displaced from eastern Ukraine during the conflict.

Pia Kauma (MP, Finland), the Rapporteur of the OSCE PA’s Committee on Political Affairs and Security, pointed to the information war being waged in parallel to the Ukraine crisis, highlighting the need for independent, unbiased journalism.

Mike McIntyre of the U.S. Delegation to the OSCE PA asked, “Why do we have an OSCE if certain nations don’t respect others sovereignty, integrity and freedom?”

The OSCE PA’s Autumn Meeting continues on 4 and 5 October with keynote speakers and parliamentary debate on topics within the economic-environmental and human dimensions.

For the full programme, speeches and additional information about the Meeting, visit:http://www.oscepa.org/meetings/autumn-meetings/2014-geneva

The Meeting is being STREAMED LIVE on www.oscepa.org.