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article imageOSCE breaks leadership vacuum deadlock

By AFP     Jul 11, 2017 in World

OSCE members broke Tuesday a deadlock over an unprecedented leadership crisis within the security body at an informal gathering of member states outside Vienna.

Current chair Austria said diplomats finally agreed on candidates to fill four top roles including that of secretary general after months of squabbling.

"We have managed to reach a political agreement on the candidates," said Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz who hosted the meeting outside Vienna.

He said he was "very optimistic" for a final deal on the appointments, including Swiss diplomat Thomas Greminger as secretary general, in the coming days.

Some of the 57 member states of the OSCE, which monitors conflicts, elections, media freedom and minorities, had demanded national concessions.

The previous secretary general, Lamberto Zannier of Italy, left on June 30. This month he warned the OSCE risked becoming obsolete unless it "rethought its fundamentals".

Former French minister Harlem Desir is poised to become the OSCE's new representative on freedom of the media.

Tuesday's meeting of 29 foreign ministers including Russia's Sergei Lavrov also discussed terrorism risks in Europe as well as the escalating violence in eastern Ukraine, where the OSCE has a monitoring mission.

Ahead of the gathering, Kurz warned that the OSCE was facing a "crisis of confidence" over the separatist conflict pitting pro-Russian rebels against Ukrainian government forces.

"The conflict in Ukraine has split our continent," he said.

He also reiterated the OSCE's commitment announced earlier this year to boost its observer mission there from around 800 to 1,000 monitors.

The meeting of 29 foreign ministers including Russia's Sergei Lavrov (right) also discussed ter...
The meeting of 29 foreign ministers including Russia's Sergei Lavrov (right) also discussed terrorism risks in Europe as well as the escalating violence in eastern Ukraine
GEORG HOCHMUTH, APA/AFP

The conflict as well as Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 have pushed ties between Moscow and the West to their lowest point since the Cold War. More than 10,000 people have been killed.

Conditions for the observers have deteriorated with violence and harassment on the rise. In April a US medic working for the OSCE was killed by a mine.

The US and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia, though Moscow has denied backing the rebels.

Absent in Mauerbach were US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Britain.

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