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Poland and Romania join Estonia in OSCE Skopje meeting boycott

OSCE foreign ministers and other officials are gathering in Skopje, North Macedonia, Thursday and Friday.
OSCE foreign ministers and other officials are gathering in Skopje, North Macedonia, Thursday and Friday. Source: SCANPIX/AFP PHOTO/SAUL LOEB

European Union and NATO members Poland and Romania will join Estonia in a boycott of Thursday's Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) meeting in Skopje, North Macedonia, in protest at the attendance of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Kyiv Post reports.

The meeting is otherwise a formality in confirming Malta as the 2024 chairing nation of the security organization, but earlier this week, Estonia announced it would not be attending.

"And also, according to available information, there should be no Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs," Poturaev added.

Ukraine itself is boycotting the two-day meeting, which starts today, Thursday, in Skopje, capital of North Macedonia.

Malta is a compromise candidate and is replacing Estonia as 2024's OSCE lead nation after Russia and Belarus vetoed Tallinn's candidacy. Unanimity from the 57-member state organization is required for a state to take on the chair post, personified in the foreign minister of the country in question.

Once it became clear that Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, would be attending the Skopje meeting, Estonia, together with Latvia and Lithuania, announced it would not be in attendance in any official capacity.

Ukraine and other countries have accused the Kremlin of "destroying OSCE" and making the organization "hostage to its whims and aggression," Kyiv Post reports; a line echoed by Estonian Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200), who said that Russia wants to "derail OSCE."

Estonia's official line on the Maltese compromise was one of non-opposition, while not withdrawing Estonia's candidacy.

Reform MP and chair of the Riigikogu's Foreign Affairs Committee Marko Mihkelson said jdged by its own lights, Malta will be "a good partner."

The issue at stake is that Russia has been handed the conch, as it were, in order to speak, at the same time that it is waging a war of destruction on a fellow OSCE member, ie. Ukraine.

Kyiv itself has stopped short of criticizing North Macedonia, the outgoing chair nation, for inviting Russia to the table at the Skopje meeting.

"I want to defend the Macedonians, who have supported Ukraine all year long," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Oleh Nikolenko has also noted, via a social media post, that Russia as illegally detained three Ukrainian OSCE representatives, whose incarceration so far totals over 500 days.

Russia and Belarus had blocked Estonia's 2024 OSCE chairmanship even ahead of the February 2022 invasion, ostensibly because Estonia is a NATO member state, reiterating that line last week.

The OSCE lead nation changes on an annual basis among the 57 member states; with the entry into office of Malta, the island nation's foreign minister, Ian Borg will be the organization's chairman-in-office throughout 2024.

The Times of Malta reports that as a member of the EU but not of NATO, Malta was the only country which could straddle the U.S.-Russia divide.

Maltese efforts in bringing together diplomats from across the world for peace talks, including at the third Ukraine Peace Summit which it hosted in Valletta last month, have also spoken in its favor, as has its stance on the Israel-Gaza war.

Unanimity on the 2024 OSCE lead nation was required by the end of this week; this was reached earlier in the week in Vienna, where OSCE is headquartered. The Skopje meeting rubber stamps this decision.

Failure to have reached a deal may have cast doubt on the OSCE's future as a credible organization, some have argued.

OSCE is a regional security-oriented intergovernmental organization formed during the Cold War to provide a forum of discussion between western and eastern blocs.

Its members are wholly from the Northern hemisphere; from Europe, North America and Asia.

OSCE's main tasks include arms control, the promotion of human rights, freedom of the press and free and fair elections among other responsibilities.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Kyiv Post

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