SKOPJE, Republic of North Macedonia – The world’s largest regional security group opened its Skopje summit on Nov 30 with Russia and Ukraine’s allies in open conflict, rattling the organisation that is intended as a forum for East-West blocs.
The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has been struggling to survive with Russia blocking key decisions, including the group’s budget.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s attendance at the Skopje gathering this week sparked a boycott from Ukraine and key allies.
Russia’s 20-month-old invasion of Ukraine came in for fierce criticism ahead of Mr Lavrov’s speech to the summit.
“Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine flies in the face of all this organisation holds dear,” said Mr Bujar Osmani, North Macedonia’s foreign affairs minister and OSCE chairman in office, during opening remarks as the summit kicked off.
“The war undermines trust, dialogue, and our capacity to deliver,” he added.
Mr Lavrov fired back, saying the OSCE was becoming an “appendage” of the Nato alliance and the European Union.
“The organisation, let’s face it, is on the edge of a precipice. A simple question arises: does it make sense to invest in its revitalisation?” said Mr Lavrov, who immediately left the session after delivering his remarks.
The Russian foreign minister was set to hold a separate press conference on the sidelines of the summit on Dec 1.
Created in 1975 as a forum for dialogue between the Eastern and Western blocs, the OSCE has been struggling to operate as Russia’s war in Ukraine has unleashed a torrent of tension in the organisation.
Earlier this week, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Poland and Lithuania announced that they would boycott the annual ministerial conference, with Warsaw saying Russia’s presence was “unacceptable”.