North Macedonia, which currently holds the revolving chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) decided at a meeting on Friday to permit Russian planes to enter its territory so that a Kremlin delegation can attend Thursday’s OSCE ministerial meeting, prompting boycotts by Kyiv and the Baltic nations.
On Monday Bulgaria also agreed to facilitate passage of the deputation over its territory but added that the authorization “does not apply to members of his delegation who are also sanctioned under EU law and who are named in documents held by Bulgaria”.
After Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who is under European sanctions, announced his intention to attend the Ministries of Foreign Affairs from Ukraine and the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania said on Tuesday that they will boycott the meeting.
Kyiv’s foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said that Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba would not attend. Kyiv has called for Moscow to be excluded from the organization.
In a post on X (formerly Twitter) Nikolenko said, “We must work together to save the OSCE from Russia.”
⚡️Delegation of Ukraine will not participate in the OSCE Ministerial meeting in Skopje at the level of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.— Oleh Nikolenko (@OlehNikolenko_) November 28, 2023
Read the full statement 👉 https://t.co/rzQ1NWbiI3 pic.twitter.com/ErLsEYNJwD
The three foreign affairs ministers of the Baltic states, who are attending a NATO meeting in Brussels, released a strongly worded joint statement on Tuesday confirming they would not attend as Lavrov’s attendance “risks legitimizing aggressor Russia as a rightful member of our community of free nations, trivializing the atrocious crimes Russia has been committing, and putting up with Russia's blatant violation and contempt of the OSCE fundamental principles and commitments.”
Last week, Russia and Belarus vetoed Estonia’s bid to take the OSCE chair in 2024 and also blocked any candidates from NATO countries from taking on the role. On Monday Malta was proposed as a compromise candidate for the role.
Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna said in a statement: “Russia will use this opportunity to spread its propaganda and undermine the unity of the West. The fact is that while the OSCE meeting is being held in Skopje, Russia’s war machine is attacking innocent Ukrainians and deporting children without blinking an eye.
Tsahkna added “Estonia cannot sit at the same table with the aggressor and bear responsibility for the consequences Lavrov’s attendance may bring. It goes against our fundamental principles – Lavrov’s place is at a special tribunal, not the OSCE table.”
Decided together with @krisjaniskarins & @GLandsbergis to not attend the OSCE ministerial council in Skopje if Russia's foreign minister Lavrov will participate.— Margus Tsahkna (@Tsahkna) November 28, 2023
My view: Lavrov belongs at a special tribunal instead of the OSCE table.
Our full statement:https://t.co/Dkb1gn9T71 pic.twitter.com/J60h9DsTkt
Russia is one of the 57 members of the OSCE, which was founded during the Cold War to supposedly defuse tensions between the Western and Eastern blocs.
The North Macedonian foreign minister has not disclosed whether they are facilitating any bilateral meetings during the conference. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who will travel from Brussels at the end of NATO’s own ministerial to attend the summit in Skopje, has said he will not meet with Lavrov.
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