US, EU regret rights lag at OSCE amid tensions with Russia

8th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

The United States and the European Union on Wednesday expressed regret the OSCE had not progressed on promoting human rights and media freedom at a meeting where Russia faced criticism over recent elections.

In closing remarks at a meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Lithuania's capital Vilnius, US ambassador Ian Kelly deplored the fact that consensus was not not reached on a declaration supporting online freedoms.

"Unfortunately, this decision was never even discussed in the preparatory committee, and discussions on enhancing journalists' safety floundered -- both due to objections by one participating state," Kelly said.

He was echoed by the European Union representative who expressed "deep concern in the lack of progress in the human rights dimension".

A senior Western diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity told journalists Moscow's position prevented a decision allowing progress in the rights domain, with Russia instead wanting the OSCE to focus on security and political issues.

"The fact that we did not get a single decision in the human dimension suggests that this was all part of their policy to re-balance the OSCE," the diplomat said.

However, Russian OSCE representative Andrey Kelin complained his country's proposals on enhancing the OSCE as a security community were "simply ignored in an unacceptable way."

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton angered Russia at the OSCE meeting when she voiced "serious concerns" about the country's parliamentary elections which opposition groups contend were neither free nor fair.

The OSCE chairman, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis, said he was disappointed over the lack of consensus over human rights but stressed the OSCE had managed to reach progress on relations with Afghanistan and North Africa.

"This decision will underpin the OSCE's efforts to support our partners in responding to developments in the Middle East and North Africa," Azubalis said.

Former Soviet-ruled Lithuania, a European Union member since 2004, organised the conference to wrap up its year-long term at the helm of the OSCE. Ireland takes over in 2012.

Comprising 56 states from Europe, Central Asia and North America, the OSCE is the world's largest regional security organization.

© 2011 AFP

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