Belarus tops OSCE agenda

VILNIUS - President Dalia Grybauskaite and Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis, the new OSCE Chairperson-in-Office as of Jan. 1, discussed the priorities and main concerns for the Lithuanian chairmanship of this organization, reports news agency ELTA. The president highlighted that the OSCE, chaired by Lithuania, would seek progress in resolving frozen conflicts, strengthen cooperation in combating modern threats, including energy isolation and cyber threats, and seek to enforce respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms by ensuring freedom of the press and democratic elections. "It is our common goal to have a strong OSCE that works efficiently and constructively. Lithuania will be working actively towards making this organization even stronger and ensuring that its decision-making is efficient and cooperation both within the organization and with external partners is constructive and based on shared values," said President Grybauskaite.

The president and the foreign affairs minister also discussed the situation in Belarus. The president agrees with OSCE's preliminary conclusions stating that Belarus still has a long way to go in order to meet its commitments to OSCE's democratic development standards. The president underlined that the outbreak of violence after the election had cast a shadow over the entire election process.

Grybauskaite has expressed concern over the protesters still held in custody. According to the president, if Belarusian leadership believes that the election results are reliable and the election has been won in a landslide, they do not have to fear the opposition and could therefore demonstrate self-confidence by releasing all detainees.

Concerning Belarus' decision not to resume the mandate for the office of the OSCE in Minsk, Grybauskaite says that such actions will not encourage cooperation. "The president believes that the OSCE office is one of the institutions and measures that would foster cooperation with the Belarusian authorities, and expresses her regret that its activities have not been renewed. This step will not: contribute to the development of democracy in Belarus," presidential spokesman Linas Balsys said after the president's meeting with Azubalis on Jan. 3. The Lithuanian foreign minister calls on Minsk to review its decision and continue the activities of the OSCE office.

"On the eve of the New Year I was talking with my colleague Martynov [Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov] and urged him to do so. Then I said in public that we are taking further diplomatic action and means so that Minsk's decision would be reviewed," said Azubalis.

Azubalis said that the Chairmanship had started consultations that aim to find a solution that would enable the OSCE to continue its work in Belarus. "I deeply regret that Belarusian authorities did not extend the mandate of the OSCE Office in Minsk. The OSCE Chairmanship will work together with Belarus and the other OSCE participating states to continue the organization's important work in the country. We have started informal consultations to find an agreement acceptable to all," Azubalis said.

The OSCE has maintained a presence in Minsk since 1998. The mandate of the Office is renewed annually by the 56 OSCE participating states and expired on Dec. 31, 2010.


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