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Human rights, resolving conflicts high on agenda OSCE Chairperson tells US Helsinki Commission

WASHINGTON DC, 8 February 2012 – Protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as making progress on resolving protracted conflicts are priorities of the 2012 Irish OSCE Chairmanship, the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, told the US Helsinki Commission in Washington DC today.  “The continuing threat to fundamental freedoms and human rights in a number of OSCE participating States is a cause of real concern,” he said.

He also highlighted Internet freedom as a particular priority: “As in other parts of the world, the threat to freedom of expression online is ever-present in the OSCE region and, regrettably, appears to be growing.” He added that “human rights and fundamental freedoms do not change with new technologies, but extend into the digital age.”

He expressed the Chairmanship’s readiness to build on the momentum in the Transdniestrian settlement process at a meeting in the “5+2” format in Dublin later this month, as well as its commitment to facilitating progress on other protracted conflicts in the OSCE region.

Stressing the potential lessons from Ireland’s own experience in conflict resolution, he said: “As you well know, we in Ireland can empathize only too well with those who are engaged in seemingly intractable conflicts. In Northern Ireland, the courage of leaders on both sides to negotiate and make compromises in the interest of peace, together with the perseverance of the Irish and British Governments, as well as international support - in particular from the United States - has resulted in a lasting settlement.”

He announced the participation of US Senator George Mitchell, a mediator in the Northern Ireland peace process, at an OSCE meeting on conflict resolution using Northern Ireland as a case study in Dublin in April.

Tackling racism and intolerance in sport, trafficking in human beings, freedom of association and assembly, professional and ethical standards in democratic life, freedom of religion or belief, transnational threats, and promoting good governance, including by countering money laundering and terrorist financing, were among other priories for the year, he said.

During his visit, the Chairperson also met US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns. He will address the UN Security Council in New York tomorrow.