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December 4, 2001
"OSCE Principles Must Be the Same for the Caucasus, the Baltic Countries, and the Balkans": Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov
The problem of double standards is the main stumbling block at the present session

By Yury Alekseyev

The address Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov made before the 9th session of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Bucharest clearly outlined Moscow's policy goals within the pan-European organization. In effect, he diplomatically stated that Russia suggested moving from mere discussions to concrete efforts designed to strengthen stability in Europe and forestall possible upsurges of terrorism in the region.

Noting shifts on a number of objectives facing the OSCE, Mr. Ivanov pointed to the necessity of searching for tough responses to existing and possible new challenges and threats. In fact, he stated, the OSCE can no longer afford to drag its feet and must urgently determine its place within the international structures that have already begun an active fight against extremism.

For this to be possible, as Moscow sees it, the OSCE must carry out organizational and structural reforms, step up its humanitarian component, and invigorate the activities of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

Russia is seriously concerned over the human rights situation in Latvia and Estonia, and feels strongly that the Office must continue its presence in those countries and provide for an all-out implementation of the OSCE's aims and goals. This, as Moscow sees it, is important not only for Russia but for the world at large - as well as the OSCE itself - whose efficiency is now in doubt.

The problem of double standards is the main stumbling block at the present session. A number of participants at the Bucharest Forum seem to derive pleasure from speaking about human rights in Chechnya, but are unwilling to bring up the theme with regard to Latvia or Kosovo. The same attitude is demonstrated towards terrorism. There is much talk about terrorists in Afghanistan, but practically not a word is spoken about organizations that have links with al-Qaeda and operate in Chechnya behind the smokescreen of the independence drive, or in Kosovo and Macedonia, where the West has openly supported separatists for a long time (and continues to do so to this day - if not with the same amount of ostentation).

Russia's stance is that the attitude to such basic concepts of international relations as "human rights" and "terrorism" must be universal. Differing views on these and certain other problems that OSCE member states may have, in Russia's opinion, should not outweigh the identification and solution of common concerns and threats.

The functional and geographical imbalances of OSCE activities are no longer acceptable to Russia, nor are the double standards in relation to the problems of Chechen terrorism and terrorism in other regions of the world. People in any country and in any region have the right to hope for the OSCE's help in the creation of a stable and peaceful life - this is the position Moscow holds. In Russia's opinion, only with the United Nations in the leading role, and with strict respect for the norms and principles of international law that, will it be possible to secure this kind of equal and fair approach to the vital problems facing the whole of mankind.

Tomorrow, the final day of the 9th Ministerial Council, will demonstrate whether or not the OSCE is capable of passing a real, substantive document on this issue.

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