Ending war in Ukraine and pursuing accountability for aggression highlighted as top OSCE priorities in PA webinar

220622 ukr 01Mykyta PoturaievCOPENHAGEN, 22 June 2022 – In a virtual meeting today hosted by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, experts and parliamentarians expressed support for ending the Russian Federation’s war in Ukraine, holding accountable those who have committed war crimes, supporting Ukrainian refugees and civilians impacted by the violence, and ensuring that the OSCE plays an effective role in conflict resolution and post-conflict rehabilitation.

Moderated by OSCE PA High-Level Expert Lamberto Zannier, a former Secretary General and High Commissioner on National Minorities of the OSCE, the webinar featured the participation of OSCE PA President Margareta Cederfelt, Head of Ukrainian Delegation to the OSCE PA Mykyta Poturaiev, Director of the OSCE Conflict Prevention Centre Tuula Yrjölä, and Alexandra Dienes, Senior Researcher at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung’s Regional Office for International Cooperation in Vienna. Several OSCE parliamentarians also took the floor in a wide-ranging debate.

Opening the discussion, Poturaiev noted that during the meeting today, sadly, more of his fellow Ukrainians would be killed. But as tragic as the loss of life in Ukraine is, he noted that the thoughts should not only be about personal safety, but also about the common defense and security of Europe. “If we want to save our planet, our nation, our families, we have to be ready to defend,” he said. “Let’s think how we can build a Europe that can defend itself.”

Yrjölä said that several months into this war, it is difficult to comprehend the impact that it is having on civilian lives, the environment, security, and the work of the OSCE itself. Providing a general overview of the OSCE’s work in Ukraine, she noted that for more than 25 years, it has worked with Ukrainian government and civil society, and stressed that it is more urgent than ever to strengthen the OSCE.

220622 ukr 1Tuula YrjöläYrjölä also noted that Ukraine is now one of the most densely mined countries in the world, and much work will have to be done for many years to come in the field of demining. The OSCE, she said, has vast experience in working in post-conflict settings, including with international partners, and she expressed confidence that the OSCE will be able to continue serving the people of Ukraine.

Discussing the prospects for peace, Dienes outlined possible avenues for ending the war, including an outright military victory or a negotiated settlement that might include territorial concessions. Noting that neither side may be ready for real negotiations right now because they both consider themselves to be making progress on the battlefield, Dienes pointed to public opinion surveys conducted by her organization that showed strong sentiment in many European countries for settling the conflict as soon as possible even if it means Ukraine conceding some territorial control to Russia. In other countries, however, including in the Baltic States, she noted that there is stronger support for Ukraine continuing to fight until victory.

President Cederfelt said that it is important to share views and discuss what is being done to support peace and security in Ukraine. “The last time we met,” she said, “we had the opportunity to hear from you about the various initiatives taken your countries, including the implementation of sanctions and providing aid directly to Ukraine. We also discussed what available channels of diplomacy there are to stop the war.”

In this regard, the President announced her recent appointment of OSCE PA Vice-President Reinhold Lopatka as Special Representative for Parliamentary Dialogue on Ukraine, with a mandate to lead efforts in close co-ordination with the OSCE Chairmanship and executive structures, as well as other international actors, to promote dialogue facilitation between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. Noting that long-term peace will also require justice, she discussed her subsequent appointment of John Whittingdale, Head of the Delegation of the United Kingdom, as Special Rapporteur on War Crimes in Ukraine.

In the discussion, members highlighted the fact that the Ukraine war continues to run the risk of escalation and possible spillover into other parts of Europe. It was recalled that the OSCE was founded on principles of indivisible and comprehensive security outlined in the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, which helped to end the Cold War and avert open conflict between nuclear powers. The priority now must be to revive the spirit of Helsinki, it was stressed, with an emphasis on de-escalation and diplomacy.

At the same time, it was recalled that Russia is the aggressor in this conflict and that it is incumbent upon Europe to support Ukraine. The importance of upholding international humanitarian law during warfare was stressed, with concern expressed not only about intentional killing of civilians, but also forced deportations and looting of cultural artefacts.

Special Rapporteur Whittingdale pledged to do his part to help document possible war crimes, and noted that the war in Ukraine will feature prominently at the upcoming OSCE PA Annual Session in Birmingham.

For video of today’s webinar, please click here.

 

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