Federal Councillor Cassis used his first OSCE meeting as an opportunity to reaffirm Switzerland’s commitment to European security. “The OSCE is our best option for reducing tensions in Europe and restoring trust,” he said in his speech to the foreign ministers of the OSCE participating states. Cooperation is all the more important now, he said, because insecurity and instability are shaping relations between East and West. For Switzerland, strengthening the organisation’s role as a platform for discussing substantive issues of European security is a priority. For this reason, Mr Cassis stressed the importance of the current “structured dialogue” on the situation with regard to security in Europe. This dialogue, in which Switzerland is taking an active part, makes it possible to address “strategic and technical issues at the same time”. In the evening in Vienna, Mr Cassis will participate in a discussion on ways to further develop the dialogue.
Conflict management is another key issue for Switzerland at the OSCE. The conflict in eastern Ukraine shows that the OSCE has the necessary instruments in place to give warnings of potential conflicts and to enable conflicts to be actively managed - with a view to their resolution in the long-term. In this way the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), which is monitoring the ceasefire, can make a decisive contribution to containing the conflict. Federal Councillor Cassis did however criticise the lack of political will on both sides of the conflict to implement political solutions.
Other OSCE activities that Switzerland actively supports include further developing economic cooperation between states and regions and strengthening the OSCE’s mediation capacities. Such activities reflect the argument that
dialogue, trade and an accurate picture of the military strength of the other reduces mistrust and builds confidence.
Security issues and current crises, in particular the conflict in eastern Ukraine, were the focus of a number of bilateral meetings that the head of the FDFA held. In the talks with the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, and the Ukrainian foreign minister, Pavlo Klimkin, Federal Councillor Cassis emphasised that the Minsk Agreements, which were concluded to resolve the conflict in Ukraine, must be consistently implemented. Mr Cassis also discussed bilateral matters with the two foreign ministers. The Dutch foreign minister , Halbe Zijlstra, also met Mr Cassis for bilateral talks.
The head of the FDFA also took the opportunity to have a lengthy discussion with the Austrian foreign minister, Sebastian Kurz. It was the first meeting between the two foreign ministers. In addition to their cooperation within the OSCE, Mr Cassis and Mr Kurz acknowledged the excellent relations between Switzerland and Austria and discussed bilateral matters including cooperation between the two states on consular matters and visas, as well as the situation in Europe and Switzerland’s policy on the EU. Austria will hold the presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of 2018.
Federal Councillor Cassis also took the opportunity to make his first contacts with other foreign ministers of the 57 OSCE participating states who were present at the Ministerial Council.
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