As the Helsinki Final Act marks its 40 anniversary, it is critical that all members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe remain faithful to its core principles. These principles include recognizing the inherent dignity and human rights of every person; respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of every participating state; and refraining from the threat or use of force across the OSCE region.
In light of these commitments, the United States renews its call for Russia and the separatists that it backs to fully implement the Minsk agreements to which Moscow is a signatory. This includes the removal of Russian forces and equipment from eastern Ukraine and unfettered access for OSCE monitors.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has emphasized the importance of the Minsk Agreement’s provision for local elections in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas to be carried out under Ukrainian law and subject to monitoring by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
There must also be a return to Ukrainian control of the border and the release of all hostages detained for politically motivated reasons. Meanwhile, Ukraine needs to do its part by withdrawing its heavy weapons and to negotiate in good faith the Donbas elections procedures.
"This is the time for concrete steps," said Secretary Kerry at the recent OSCE ministerial meeting in Serbia, "and to avoid what is a disastrous but unnecessary conflict, and to begin the process of rebuilding Ukraine's east."
Elsewhere in the OSCE, protracted conflicts continue in places like Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria, Georgia, and Nagorno-Karabakh.
The protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms throughout the OSCE region continues to be a priority. In too many countries, said Secretary Kerry, nongovernmental organizations are being restricted by new laws. Journalism is under attack and the freedom of expression, including the media, is in jeopardy, sometimes by threat of force. There is no acceptable excuse for abusing the rights of citizens, for preventing journalists from doing their jobs, or from silencing legitimate political dissent.
"I hope that we will all reaffirm these fundamental ideals," said Secretary Kerry. "The enduring promise of Helsinki should inspire all of us to tackle these shared challenges with renewed urgency, and to continue our effort(s). . .in building a Europe and a Eurasia that are whole and free and at peace."