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Baltics to boycott OSCE's Skopje meeting if Russian FM Lavrov attends

Krisjanis Karins, and Gabrielius Landsbergis, and Margus Tsahkna in Tallinn on November 24, 2023.
Krisjanis Karins, and Gabrielius Landsbergis, and Margus Tsahkna in Tallinn on November 24, 2023. Source: Katrīna Laura Tkačenko/ Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania said they will boycott the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's (OSCE) Ministerial Council in Skopje later this week if Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also attends.

Last week, Russia and Belarus vetoed Estonia's bid for the OSCE chair in 2024, and on Monday Malta was proposed as a compromise. Russia also blocked any NATO candidates from taking on the role.

The three foreign affairs ministers released a joint statement on Tuesday that said they would not go to the meeting as Lavrov's attendance "risks legitimizing aggressor Russia as a rightful member of our community of free nations, trivializing the atrocious crimes Russia has been committing, and putting up with Russia's blatant violation and contempt of the OSCE fundamental principles and commitments."

Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200) said in a statement: "Russia will use this opportunity to spread its propaganda and undermine the unity of the West. The fact is that while the OSCE meeting is being held in Skopje, Russia's war machine is attacking innocent Ukrainians and deporting children without blinking an eye."

"Estonia cannot sit at the same table with the aggressor and bear responsibility for the consequences Lavrov's attendance may bring. It goes against our fundamental principles," the minister said. "Lavrov's place is at a special tribunal, not the OSCE table."

"Russia's aggression against its independent and peaceful neighbor Ukraine violates international law, and it is an attack on the OSCE and its fundamental values," the foreign minister said.

Tsahkna said in the statement that it is crucial to put an immediate end to the aggression, withdraw Russian troops from occupied areas, compensate for the destruction, and hold criminals to account. But there are no signs Russia is considering following international law or the principles of the OSCE, he said.

"The OSCE was created to rebuild European security, prevent conflicts and maintain peace. With its unlawful and brutal actions, Russia has repeatedly proved that it is not a security partner for Europe. In reality, Europe currently needs defense from and against Russia," said Tsahkna.

On Tuesday, the minister met in Brussels at the meeting of NATO foreign ministers. Tsahkna issued the joint statement alongside Latvian Foreign Minister Krisjanis Karins and Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabrielius Landsbergis.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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