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Protecting National Minorities


Protecting National Minorities

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Ambassador Knut Vollebaek, High Commissioner on National Minorities of the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe, the OSCE, has published a report on minority issues in Europe.

Carol Fuller, United States Charge d'Affaires to the OSCE Permanent Council, said it is imperative to do more "to address not only the causes, but also conditions or actions that can exacerbate conflict." She welcomed efforts by High Commissioner Vollebaek to improve bilateral relations between Russia and Ukraine, on these issues, and said the U.S. is pleased to see that both parties have reacted positively to his recommendations. "We are particularly concerned about tensions in the Crimean peninsula," she said, "and agree on the need to develop a comprehensive strategy to deal with this situation."

In Kazakhstan, the U.S. appreciates High Commissioner Vollebaek's work to ensure that minority populations – particularly the Uighur and Uzbek communities – are fully integrated into the Kazakhstani educational system. Charge d'Affaires Fuller said the United States commends Kazakhstan for taking up the High Commissioner's recommendations on including minority language schools in the trilingual education program and for unambiguously ensuring that promotion of the official state language will not be at the expense of any other language spoken in Kazakhstan.

Charge d'Affaires Fuller thanked High Commissioner Vollebaek for his efforts, in coordination with other international organizations and bilateral donors, to assist authorities in Macedonia to address the issue of ethnically separated education. And she commended his work in Kosovo to help the public understand the concept and value of transitional justice and to keep the issue on the political agenda.

The U.S. strongly supports High Commissioner Vollebaek's continued engagement in Georgia. Especially important are his efforts to call attention to the situation of ethnic minorities, particularly in Gali and Akhalgori. The U.S. remains concerned over the lack of human rights protection in the war-affected areas of Georgia and urges implementation of the recommendations made in the November 2008 joint report of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and the Venice Commission. The U.S. reiterates its call for a follow-up assessment mission to ascertain the current human rights and humanitarian situation in the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions of Georgia.

Charge d'Affaires Fuller said the United States applauds Slovakia and Hungary's decision to work with High Commissioner Vollebaek to find common resolutions for resolving tensions in their bilateral relations. Other states in the region should follow their example.

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