By Igor Slavinsky
Not long ago, Astana hosted the OSCE Summit, where Alexander Lukashenko shared his vision for developing this trans-Atlantic community of nations. Behind the scenes of that Kazakh meeting, talks took place between Belarus’ Foreign Minister, Sergei Martynov, and the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Recently, Minsk hosted a press conference of the OSCE’s American representative, Ian Kelly, who said, “We believe Belarus occupies a very important place in Europe. It should continue participating in our Permanent Council meetings and in our programmes. We don’t wish it to be isolated.”
The OSCE headquarters is in Vienna, not far from Minsk; in fact, flights run twice daily. However, for Minsk and Vienna to remain in contact, there’s no need to send diplomats on business trips. Mr. Kelly actually spoke to Belarusian journalists via a TV bridge. Nevertheless, despite the supremacy of modern telecommunications, the American diplomat is certain that Minsk would benefit from having its own OSCE office.
For many years, the mission operated in Belarus but, in late December 2010, our Foreign Ministry decided that it had fulfilled its mandate. Similar missions in Latvia and Georgia were recently closed for the same reason. Belarus has thanked Minsk’s OSCE office for its joint projects (much has been achieved in recent years) but has failed to prolong its mandate for another year. “This won’t lead to our country reducing interaction with the OSCE. On the contrary, we’re ready to strengthen and enhance our practical interaction with OSCE institutions,” noted the Foreign Ministry’s Press Secretary, Andrei Savinykh, at the press conference, confirming that this decision is final and not subject to discussion.
Mr. Kelly moved to Vienna from Washington (where he worked as the Spokesperson for the US Department of State) to take on his diplomatic post. He several times stressed in Russian that he ‘believes in the European future of Belorussia’; he admitted that he began learning Russian three decades ago (so has perhaps decided not to re-learn the name of our country). “We wish the Belarusian Government to see advantages from joining European institutions,” he said, adding that all OSCE participants take on certain obligations — such as ensuring freedom of speech and meetings. “The OSCE does not apply economic sanctions, being established to support contacts. We don’t have an army or courts, but have the power of dialogue,” Mr. Kelly noted. He mentioned the mutually respectful dialogue which he is conducting with Belarusian Alexander Sychev, in Vienna.