MAUERBACH, Austria (AP) — The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe appeared poised Tuesday to end months of crippling deadlock, with participants at an OSCE foreign ministers’ meeting saying member nations now agree in principle on who should fill key leadership positions.
A forum born of Cold War attempts to ease disputes through compromise, the OSCE must reach decisions by consensus. But regional and international rivalries have prevented agreement on the Ukraine crisis and longer-standing dormant conflicts elsewhere, and the dispute on who should fill top vacancies has only contributed to the sense that the organization is in crisis.
The OSCE, which seeks to ensure peace, stability and democracy across the continent, has had no secretary general since the mandate of Lamberto Zannier of Italy ended June 30.
Other senior vacancies are for the head of human rights, the representative on freedom of the media and the person overseeing minority rights.
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In post-meeting comments, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, who is acting chair of the organization, said he is “very optimistic that we will come up with a solution.”
He offered no detail. But a participant who demanded anonymity because he was not authorized to report on the closed meeting was more upbeat, saying ministers and their representatives had tentatively agreed on candidates for the vacant positions and a formal announcement expected is expected early next week.
Despite Kurz’s formal leadership role, the major player at the meeting was Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. He came to the meeting with his country refusing to sign off on candidates.
Kurz emphasized Moscow’s oversized role in Europe ahead of the meeting, saying: “We have to realize that peace on our continent will only be with and not against Russia.” He said the presence of Lavrov will “enable the talks and contacts which are necessary to make progress” in reaching agreement on filling the OSCE vacancies.
Lavrov was noncommittal as to the chances of overcoming the disagreement on personnel, only saying ahead of the meeting that “the chance is always there.” But Kurz, in post-meeting comments, said the Russian had played a “very constructive role.”
In his opening speech, Kurz focused on the need for common strategies on fighting terrorism and extremism. Because all countries are threatened, he said, all OSCE nations — European and some central Asian nations, as well as the U.S. and Canada — must “pull in the same direction.”
Philipp Jenne contributed.