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U.S. Department of State

Department Seal Deputy Secretary Talbott
Intervention at the OSCE Ministerial, Copenhagen, Denmark,
December 18, 1997

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As delivered

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I add my voice to that of Mr. van Mierlo and others who have saluted you for Denmark's energetic leadership of this organization over the past year. Let me also join prior speakers in welcoming Dr. Geremek as the incoming Chairman-in-Office. Long ago, and often since, he earned the admiration of many of us here. For him to have assumed the portfolio of Minister of Foreign Affairs of his country -- and for him now to be preparing to assume the gavel of this organization -- speaks volumes about the transformation that has swept this continent in recent years.

I would also like to use this occasion to express my appreciation to my friend and colleague, Sam Brown, for his own contribution to the OSCE over the past 4 years and to wish him well.

Secretary Albright sends her greetings to all of you, along with her regrets that she is unable to be with you. This morning she is in Paris meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and this afternoon she will be in London meeting with Chairman Arafat as part of the search for peace in the Middle East.

Earlier this week, Secretary Albright had occasion to assert that the OSCE has grown in importance and effectiveness since the end of the Cold War. She made that comment in Brussels, where she was attending ministerial meetings of four other organizations. One of them, the North Atlantic Council, is 48 years old. The other three -- the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council, and the NATO-Ukraine Council -- are only a few months old.

Yet whether they are long-established or fledgling, these bodies are all vital to the evolution of the new Europe. So are the EU, the OECD, the Council of Europe, the Partnership for Peace, and quite a few other regional, subregional, and transregional groupings that have been mentioned here this morning. The United States belongs to some; it is an observer in the councils of others; with respect to others still, the United States is an intensely interested well-wisher. The job descriptions and the membership lists of these institutions are different. But their missions and their compositions often are overlapping, and, in some key respects, they are mutually reinforcing.

Together, they make up the superstructure of a community of nations and, more to the point, a community of civic and political values that extends westward beyond the Atlantic and eastward beyond the Urals -- and certainly beyond the Bosporus. Together, these organizations and arrangements give us the diverse tools we need to carry on the larger construction job on which we have already made so much progress in recent years: the building of a Europe that is integrated, free, and at peace for the first time in its history.

In this context, the OSCE is unique, and it is indispensable. It is not only the most inclusive of our Euro-Atlantic institutions -- it is also the premier mechanism for the prevention of conflicts before they occur, for the management and amelioration of conflicts when they occur, and for reconciliation after they occur.

We now have, in the security model process, a means of making the OSCE even better at what it does best.

The concrete example of the Balkans is on all our minds. In the year ahead, building on the good work it has done already, we hope that the OSCE will tackle new tasks, including helping to defuse the increasingly tense situation in Kosovo.

Another deserving country in that troubled region is Albania. My government fully supports the continuation of the vigorous and skillful diplomacy of Dr. Vranitzky, who, on behalf of this organization, has helped the Albanian people begin to find their own place in the new Europe.

The OSCE is also at work in several new independent states of the former Soviet Union. With respect to Moldova, the United States joins other countries here today that have urged all parties to build upon the considerable progress to date by setting a fixed timetable for full withdrawal of foreign troops and for facilitating the proper disposal of arms and ammunition in Transnestria.

With respect to Georgia, we are encouraged by the recent headway in the areas of refugee return and final-status negotiations on Ossetia.

Nearby in the Caucasus, the OSCE has been at the center of the effort to find a solution to the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. The three co-chairs of the Minsk Conference will be reporting more fully tomorrow. Sitting in one of those chairs myself, I will venture this one comment: The good news in an otherwise still highly uncertain and dangerous situation is the extent to which the United States, France, and Russia have been able to work together. We must hope that the solidarity of the troika will sooner rather than later induce commensurate flexibility and good sense on the part of all the parties to the conflict.

Let me conclude, Mr. Chairman, with a word about the OSCE's efforts to assist another newcomer to the ranks of sovereign, independent states: Belarus. I understand that, after much effort, there has been progress toward an agreement on how to fulfill the Government of Belarus' commitment to establish an OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Minsk.

I mentioned at the outset the OSCE's defining virtue of inclusiveness. That means welcoming in our ranks -- and working with, in our various ventures -- some countries that have further to go than others in providing their citizens with the benefits of civil, democratic, open society.

For more than 22 years -- since the Helsinki Summit -- this organization has articulated and enshrined fundamental commitments with regard to human and political rights. It has worked patiently and constructively with countries that are moving in the right direction, and it has defined a reasonable standard for judging meaningful progress in that direction. As Javier Ruperez said so rightly and clearly a short moment ago, when any member state fails to live up to those standards -- or defies them outright -- that failure or that defiance constitutes a challenge to the credibility of this entire institution. Meeting that challenge in the years to come will continue to be integral to the overarching mission of helping to preserve the peace of the continent and of the larger transatlantic and trans-Eurasian community.

[End of Document]

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