Mr. Chair, further to the announcements by Ukraine and the United States, let me explain the position of the European Union and its Member States as well as of the participating States aligning to this statement.
The Forum for Security Cooperation was established almost 30 years ago with a clear mandate in the politico-military dimension of the OSCE to discuss the security needs and concerns of all participating States, to cooperate towards peace in our region through increased military transparency and predictability and building mutual trust.
Now, for more than two months, the brutal full-scale war of aggression launched by Russia against its sovereign, democratic and peaceful neighbouring State, Ukraine, has been ravaging our continent. The images coming from this war continue to shock the whole world.
Russia bears full responsibility for its barbaric acts, resulting in unspeakable human suffering and tragedies, the loss of life, massive displacement and the destruction of many Ukrainian cities. Targeting and killing innocent civilians, redrawing borders in blood, attempting to subjugate the will of a free people, these unacceptable actions grossly violate international law, the principles of the UN Charter and the OSCE as well as the basic concepts of morality, of right and wrong. Let us be clear: we will spare no efforts to hold to account all those who are responsible for war crimes or crimes against humanity.
Today, as Belarus, in accordance with the OSCE rules of procedure, is taking over the role of FSC Chair, mutual trust no longer exists. Military transparency and predictability have been significantly undermined as a result of the actions undertaken by Russia, with the complicit support of Belarus.
The European Union and its Member States see Russia’s aggression as a direct threat to European and global security and stability. It is a paradigm-shifting event that will have knock-on effects across many regions in the world. We are sure that this unprovoked and unjustified aggression against Ukraine will become a strategic failure. For this reason, we will continue to support Ukrainians in their heroic defence of their homeland and in their right to choose their own future and destiny. We will also continue to impose severe costs on the invaders.
We deplore the complicity of Belarus in enabling and supporting the Russian military aggression by providing its territory and logistical infrastructure for the attack on its neighbour. On 16 February 2022, eight days before the start of the invasion, in the joint meeting of the Permanent Council and the Forum for Security Cooperation, Belarus, with regard to the exercise “Union Resolve 2022”, stated the following: “The exercise is not directed against anyone at all. It does not pose any threat to neighbouring countries or to regional security as a whole”. These hollow words are still resounding in our memories. We know what happened afterwards. Belarus became a co-aggressor. Tanks started rolling down from the territory of Belarus in the direction of Kyiv, including through the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Missiles were launched from the territory of Belarus against Ukraine. Atrocities committed by the invaders in Bucha, Irpin and other places in the Kyiv Oblast followed suit.
The OSCE has a unique role to play in conflict situations. The Organisation’s main task is to preserve and support peace, stability and security in Europe. Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are also key to the OSCE’s comprehensive security concept. The link between internal repression and external aggression is undeniable. We cannot but wholeheartedly agree with UN Secretary General António Guterres who said last week in Kyiv that war is an absurdity in the 21st century. The Russian armed forces keep reminding us of this every single day.
We demand that Russia immediately and unconditionally cease its military actions and withdraw all its troops and equipment from the entire territory of Ukraine, including the illegally annexed Crimean peninsula. We also reiterate our call on Belarus to stop enabling the Russian aggression and to abide by its international obligations.
Under the current circumstances we cannot have business as usual, including in this Forum. The role of Belarus in the facilitation of the Russian aggression has heavily undermined the legitimacy and credibility of the Belarusian FSC Chair. As a clear sign of our protest we intend to keep our engagement in the FSC in the current trimester to a bare minimum.
I request, Mr Chair, that this Statement be attached to the Journal of the Day.
The Candidate Countries REPUBLIC of NORTH MACEDONIA*, MONTENEGRO*, and ALBANIA*, the EFTA countries ICELAND, LIECHTENSTEIN and NORWAY, members of the European Economic Area, as well as UKRAINE, GEORGIA, ANDORRA and SAN MARINO align themselves with this statement.
Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.