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Minister Martin presses for progress on key OSCE confidence and security building commitments

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Micheál Martin T.D., launched today Ireland's Chairmanship of the Forum for Security Co-operation of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Speaking at a special opening session to mark the start of Ireland's four-month chair of the Forum the Minister said that the forthcoming OSCE Summit in Astana in December offers a unique opportunity to renew key security and confidence-building commitments agreed by the 56 OSCE participating States, including the landmark Vienna Document.

“This year, after an interval of eleven years, our leaders will meet at the OSCE Summit in Astana. Coming at the same time as the 35th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act, this Summit represents an important opportunity for the OSCE,” Minister Martin said, adding that the Irish FSC Chairmanship would press for progress on a range of FSC activities, including updating the Vienna Document.

“The improved mood on arms control generally, as marked by the signature of the new START Treaty, and the current effort to end the stalemate on the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, provides an ideal opening for progress”.

Emphasising that disarmament and the protection of civilians in armed conflict were core priorities of Irish foreign policy, the Minister underscored the importance of the international Convention on Cluster Munitions, which was agreed at a conference in Dublin in 2008 and which came into force on 1 August.

“It is most encouraging that to date 34 out of the 56 OSCE participating States have signed the Convention and that 18 of them have already ratified it. We urge those States who have not to date been able to adhere to the Convention to re-assess their need to retain cluster munitions, and, as a first step, to eliminate completely from their stockpiles weapons that disperse sub-munitions without any safe-guarding mechanisms or features,” the Minister said.

Looking ahead to Ireland’s Chairmanship of the OSCE in 2012, Minister Martin said that his country would pay particular attention to the OSCE’s work in conflict prevention and resolution.

“The OSCE plays an important role in conflict prevention and resolution, particularly in relation to the protracted conflicts in the region”, he said. “As Chair, we will work hard to contribute to the resolution of these conflicts, drawing on our experience in this area in the context of the Northern Ireland peace process.” He added: “Human Rights and democracy are an integral element of security and this is reflected in the work and institutions of the OSCE. Ireland will place the human dimension at the centre of its chairmanship. With great pride and commitment, we are looking forward to the challenges and opportunities of chairing the OSCE in 2012.”

Minister Martin confirmed that Ireland would fund a number of FSC projects, including initiatives to help dispose of abandoned munitions and explosives, in addition the Minister announced support to the OSCE Police training operations.

Note for Editors:

OSCE: The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is an intergovernmental regional security organisation comprising 56 States from Europe, Central Asia and North America.

The organisation deals with a wide range of security issues, including arms control, preventive diplomacy, confidence and security building measures, human rights, election monitoring and economic and environmental security.

Forum for Security Cooperation (FSC)

The Forum for Security Cooperation (FSC) is one of two Vienna-based decision-making bodies of the OSCE, the other being the Permanent Council (PC). The role of FSC is to take decisions regarding aspects of security in the OSCE area, in particular confidence and security building measures (so-called CSBMs), in order to reduce the risk of conflict.

Examples of work that the FSC deals with are agreements on exchanging information concerning their military forces (the so-called “Vienna Document”), promoting the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, improving the control of small arms and light weapons, from production to storage and destruction, and dealing with stockpiles of conventional ammunition. In recent years, issues such as gender and security and human rights in defence forces have assumed a higher profile.

Ireland will chair the Forum for four months, from September to December 2010.  This is the first occasion that Ireland will chair the body.

Ireland’s Chairmanship of the OSCE in 2012

It was agreed by consensus at the OSCE Ministerial meeting in Athens in December 2009 that Ireland will chair the OSCE in 2012. This is a significant event for Irish foreign affairs, as Ireland has never previously held the Chair of the Organisation. As Chairman, the responsibilities of the Minister will include chairing meetings, co-ordinating the work of the OSCE institutions, representing the OSCE in various contexts and supervising activities relating to conflict prevention, post-conflict rehabilitation and providing leadership when crises arise, such as in Georgia in 2008 and in Kyrgyzstan this year.