Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to play a greater role in Afghanistan, describing instability in the nation as “dangerous” to Central Asia and the 56-nation group as a whole.
About 40 OSCE states contribute to the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan, “but the OSCE itself should play a greater role” to improve border security, counter illicit trafficking, boost legitimate trade, and promote economic development, Clinton said at a meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan. “Insecurity anywhere in the OSCE region is a challenge for all of us.”
Clinton delivered her remarks at the first OSCE summit in 11 years, attended by heads of government and foreign ministers, many of whom were mentioned in State Department cables released this week by WikiLeaks.org. This is her first stop on a three-nation tour of Central Asia, after which she will attend a security conference in the Persian Gulf.
Clinton met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, UK Deputy Prime Minister Nicholas Clegg and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi among other leaders. With all of them, she brought up the WikiLeaks disclosures, said a State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Clinton Not Shy
The official said Clinton wasn’t shy about raising the topic and said the administration regrets what happened. Different cables described Merkel as “risk averse and rarely creative,” the Italian leader as “feckless, vain and ineffective” and members of the Kazakh leadership as nightclub aficionados.
Without commenting on the truth of information in them, Clinton told the leaders the cables were written by individual diplomatic officers and didn’t reflect U.S. policy, the official said. She offered personal reassurances to emphasize her point.
Clinton told the Italian leader in a one-on-one meeting that no one has supported America the way Berlusconi has through the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations, the official said.
During more formal talks, Clinton laid out three priorities for the Vienna-based OSCE, including greater involvement in Afghanistan. The organization should also do more to respond to crises within member states, Clinton said.
“It is encouraging that Russia also recognizes the need to improve on our existing capacity,” Clinton said. “We are working to find a framework that will allow for timely, impartial OSCE reporting during emergencies like those we have seen in Georgia and Kyrgyzstan.”
Russia routed Georgian forces in a five-day war over the breakaway region of South Ossetia in August 2008. Ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan left at least 251 people dead and forced 400,000 people to flee their homes in June, according to government estimates.
The OSCE should work on conflict prevention, Clinton said, beginning with Georgia, “whose sovereignty and territorial integrity the United States strongly supports.”
Clinton singled out Russia in several comments, indicating U.S. opposition to some of Russia’s positions.
Russia has made proposals that would weaken the human rights dimension of the OSCE’s mission, and it refuses to allow the OSCE to remain in Georgia unless it treats South Ossetia as a stand-alone entity, Clinton said.
The OSCE closed its 200-strong mission in Georgia at the end of 2008 as Russia refused to extend its mandate after the war. While Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another Georgian region, as independent countries after the conflict, Georgia still claims sovereignty over the territories.
OSCE in Georgia
“It is regrettable that a participating state has proposed to host a mission, and the OSCE has not been allowed to respond,” Clinton said. “We here at this table must let this organization do its job and restore a meaningful OSCE presence to Georgia.”
Clinton called on “all parties to fully respect and implement the August and September 2008 cease-fire arrangements” between Russia and Georgia.
While the cease-fire agreement required forces to withdraw to pre-conflict positions, Russian troops remain in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia says the forces are based in the regions under treaties between Russia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia “in full compliance with the norms of international law.”
Clinton also called on the leaders gathered in Astana to renew the OSCE’s commitment to the idea that democracy, human rights, and fundamental freedoms for individuals creates more stable and secure states.
The OSCE host Kazakhstan’s human rights record has been criticized by U.S. lawmakers.
“As the summit opens, Kazakhstan is blocking websites, a journalist remains jailed for doing his job, libel remains a criminal offense, political parties remain limited” and President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s “one-party parliament has granted him lifelong immunity from prosecution,” Maryland Democratic Senator Ben Cardin said in a statement. Cardin is chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.
The principles of human rights and democracy “face serious challenges,” Clinton said. “Regional crises and transnational dangers threaten our people. Democracies are under pressure, and protracted conflicts remain dangerously unresolved.”
For that reason, she said she was calling for “a forward- looking framework for action that translates Helsinki principles into concrete steps to advance security in all its dimensions.”