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Ministry for Foreign Affairs

OSCE Ministerial Meeting in Oslo

OSCE Ministerial Meeting in Oslo, December 2-3, 1998
Statement by H.E. Mr. Halldór Ásgrímsson, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland

Mr. Chairman,

In the last years remarkable changes have occured in Europe. The principles and ideals of the CSCE played a very important role in making these changes take place, a fact not always recognized. It is beyond doubt that the Helsinki process was one of the key factors in bringing the Cold War to an end. After the closing of that gloomy chapter in international relations this organization has developed rapidly. OSCE norms and values are of vital importance and compliance with them must be promoted in all the participating states. Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the rights of persons belonging to national minorities, democracy, the rule of law and the development of free market economies as well as social progress rightly remain core subjects of OSCE work. Full implementation of OSCE commitments is fundamental to the maintenance of all-European security.

In the sphere of security and conflict prevention our organization has assumed a growing role in the new and developing security structure in Europe. This increased importance, very much in evidence during the present year, is based on several factors, not least the fact that all European and North American States are members. The important contributions of OSCE missions in the field and other work being done within the OSCE framework have proven to be essential in preventing conflicts, the management of crisis and post-conflict reconstruction. The work in the field is often being carried out in very difficult circumstances and we highly praise the personnel involved and commend their input.

Iceland welcomes the ever stronger bond between the OSCE and NATO. This is witnessed most clearly in connection with the reconstruction work in Bosnia-Herzegovina and with the recent developments in Kosovo. The close cooperation between OSCE and NATO in verifying the ceasefire in Kosovo and compliance with UN Security Council Resolutions, as well as the NATO Extraction Force which will support the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM), demonstrates how close the two organizations can work to their mutual benefit.

Iceland participates in SFOR peacekeeping missions and we have decided to participate in the KVM. The successful implementation of the KVM is an important factor in shaping the future role of the OSCE in the security field in Europe. The OSCE must demonstrate its considerable capability in conflict resolution. However, we all realize that the successful outcome of the KVM depends not the least on the political will of the two sides in Kosovo to cease the violence as well as to resolve their differences in good faith. We urge them to negotiate a settlement as soon as possible.

Iceland fully adheres to the ideas on cooperation between existing organizations and institutions as set out in the Common Concept attached to the Copenhagen decision last year on an OSCE Document-Charter on European Security. Utmost care must be taken in order not to repeat work. The challenges of today, for example in the field of human rights and security, are too vital in importance to divide our strength and duplicate our efforts in various organizations. For smaller member states this principle is obviously of a particular concern for we already find it hard to participate fully in all the new fora that have come into being in the past few years. Iceland joins in urging further work on the Document-Charter.

From early May next year Iceland will hold the presidency of the Council of Europe for six months. This provides an excellent opportunity to underline our support for the promotion of democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights in the whole of Europe. In this field the Council of Europe also has political responsibility. During our presidency in Strasbourg we intend to follow-up on the ongoing exchanges of ideas between the OSCE and the Council of Europe on the continuation of pragmatic and target-oriented burden sharing between these two organizations. We look forward to cooperating with the incoming Norwegian OSCE Chairman in Office on this issue.

In concluding I would like to thank our hosts for their warm hospitality and excellent organization of this meeting.

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