Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism at Conference on Jewish Life and Anti-Semitism in Contemporary Europe
Conference on Jewish Life and Anti-Semitism in Contemporary Europe
This conference couldn’t come at a better time, as we see Jewish communities grappling with rising anti-Semitism in Europe. Why now? What is fueling this ongoing hatred? And what can we do to address it? That’s the beauty of a conference such as this one: we can move beyond just narrative alone and explore positive and hopeful ways to move forward.
While we must work with imperfect data when we try to evaluate the state of anti-Semitism around the world, recent Pew statistics confirm what anecdotal evidence and intuition have been telling us: anti-Semitism is on the rise in 75 countries despite official attempts to address this growing hate.
Here are a few statistics worth noting. In the year ending December 2011, Jews experienced social harassment in 63 countries around the world and endured social harassment in 69% of the European countries. These statistics are particularly startling when one understands the relatively small number of countries in the world that have large Jewish populations.
In the same period, Jews faced government harassment in 28 countries in Europe, with government harrassment of Jews occuring in 22% of the European countries.
While this last number is low compared to harrassment by individuals and groups in society, it actually represents a fivefold increase in the number of countries where governments have harassed Jews. These numbers speak volumes.
Extremist parties have been gaining popular support throughout Europe. Political parties espousing anti-immigrant and racist views have won seats in the parliaments of Austria, Bulgaria, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, and Ukraine.
I wish the numbers were different. I wish we could speak of anti-Semitism as a historical phenomenon.
So what can we do about this rising anti-Semitism?
Obviously, the Lantos Institute conference is a part of the response. Through such conferences, we bring together concerned and interested parties to explore together where our efforts to combat anti-Semitism stand and our next steps.
Tom, as we all know, was the only Holocaust survivor ever to serve in the United States Congress.
Congressman Lantos was instrumental in crafting and passing the legislation that created the position of U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, the position I have held since May of this year.
Secretary of State John Kerry clearly is committed to the issue. As he has stated, “We all of us have to join in a common resolve to stand up, speak out, and act against anti-Semitism and all forms of hatred, whenever and wherever they occur.”
The individual who holds the Special Envoy position has a number of tools he or she can utilize. In Washington, I meet with NGOs, academics, and Jewish organization representatives to hear their stories and concerns, and to hear the latest research concerning anti-Semitism. In Washington, I also meet with foreign government officials to express our concern regarding anti-Semitic actions taking place around the world.
Through regular training modules and talks, I educate our diplomats on what anti-Semitism looks like in the 21st century and how diplomats can combat such hate when they encounter it at their postings overseas.
Since assuming this position I have made it a priority to travel to a number of European countries to supplement our offices’ understanding of the depth of anti-Semitism. I’ve traveled to Belgium, Germany, Norway, Poland, France, and now Hungary where I engage with government and civil society on intolerance against Jews. I will soon be traveling to Ukraine, and more travels will follow. Wherever I go, I advocate for understanding of the issues facing Jews around the world and how to combat anti-Semitism.
The terrible events of the Holocaust remain an open wound in much of Europe, and it is important that all nations involved come to terms with their roles. But we must also recognize those who opposed the Nazi plan to eradicate Europe’s Jewish people.
In my first week on the job, I went to Poland, where I joined a group of imams and Muslim scholars from around the world to visit Nazi concentration and death camps and speak with Holocaust survivors.
The reactions of the individual Imams were powerful to witness.
Of course, they were the horrified by the stories of the survivors and the bundles of hair and piles of baby shoes. But even more memorable were the conversations at the end of the trip when, one after another, they agonized about what they could do to make the world aware of what happened, and what we can do to make sure it never happens again.
Touched by what they had seen and heard, my Muslim colleagues decided to sign a joint statement condemning such hate.
This trip convinced me yet again of the good we can accomplish when we unite with one voice across religious divides.
Although there is no magic solution to stop hatred, we must keep looking for answers. We want to shine the spotlight on best practices and models that work—such as this Imam trip.
I also want to highlight The March of the Living Foundation here in Hungary. Each year, this group organizes hundreds of Hungarians–mostly young people, students–to travel to Auschwitz to join thousands of others to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day. This march started 10 years ago with a mere 300 participants, and has grown into an annual event that attracted nearly 30,000 people this year. The Foundation’s focus on the youth of Hungary ensures that the next generation remains cognizant of the past and vigilant toward the future. Never again.
May we hear about more such positive ways forward in the sessions to come!
The many manifestations of anti-Semitism today
More than six decades after the end of the Second World War, “old fashioned” anti-Semitism is instilling fear where there should be freedom and is draining Jewish communities of resources they can ill afford to lose. We are all too familiar with ongoing hostile acts such as the defacing of property and the desecration of cemeteries with anti-Semitic graffiti.
In France, in 2012, the Jewish community recorded a 58 percent increase over the previous year in the number of anti-Semitic attacks.
A government study in Belgium revealed a 30% increase from 2011 to 2012 of anti-Semitic abuse and violence.
In the United Kingdom, the Community Security Trust reported 2012 to be “the third worst year on record” for anti-Semitic incidents.
In my own country – certainly not a center of anti-Semitism in the twenty-first century – almost two-thirds of hate crimes committed each year on the basis of religion or belief are committed against Jews.
Nationalistic movements target immigrants, and religious and ethnic minorities – in the name of protecting the identity and “purity” of their nation. In Greece, Golden Dawn won almost 7% of the vote, securing 18 seats in parliament. Promoting an idea that Greece is only for “Greeks,” it has targeted attacks against persons perceived to be illegal migrants, and uses a swastika-like emblem, employs Nazi salutes, and its leaders have made anti-Semitic statements, including denials of the Holocaust. This year, the Golden Dawn called Greece’s Holocaust Remembrance Day “unacceptable.” And in recent weeks we have all witnessed the outpouring of protest over the murder of an anti-fascist blogger.
In Hungary, the rise of the anti-Semitic and anti-Roma Jobbik party is troubling, particularly given that a 2012 poll found that Jobbik is the most popular party with Hungarians less than 30 years old. Members of the Jobbik party have questioned the historical accuracy of Holocaust memorials and accused the Jewish community of inflating the number of Holocaust victims to gain political favor. Last November, one of its MPs in parliament called for a registration of Jews, a move that was widely condemned. And most worrisome of all, in both Hungary and Greece there are para-military operations associated with these anti-Semitic parliamentary parties.
While we welcome commitments by the Hungarian government to take actions to reduce anti-Semitism and to prosecute those who commit abuses, we are concerned by efforts by some in Hungary to minimize its role in the Holocaust and to rehabilitate problematic extremist cultural and historical figures from the interwar period. .
Negative attitudes toward Israel often inform or bleed into anti-Semitism. We record increases in anti-Semitic violence whenever there are hostilities in the Middle East.
Throughout the year the State Department monitors these trends and reports the findings—covering 199 countries and territories—in two major annual reports: the International Religious Freedom Report and the Human Rights Report. Our work ensures that countries dealing with rampant anti-Semitism can have access to programs promoting tolerance and mutual understanding.
Let us be clear – all criticism of the policies of the State of Israel is NOT to be conflated with anti-Semitism. We believe that it is essential that the world treat Israel like any other nation-state. But when criticism of Israeli policy includes assumptions that Zionism is an ideology of religious or ethnic superiority, or that Israel is immunized from international criticism because Jews control the media or the banking system, then the speakers – sometimes quite unconsciously – are promoting the same old anti-Semitic attitudes that were around for centuries before the current State of Israel was founded.
The UN and its human rights organs continue to be used as forums for point-scoring in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Israel resolutions at the Human Rights Council generally run under agenda item 7, which is a stand-alone agenda item on the “Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.” This dedicated agenda item ensures a negative and disproportionate spotlight on Israel during each HRC session. We vigorously oppose all action and mandates under item 7.
Of course, it is vital to emphasize that the United States is concerned about the rights of all religious groups under attack. We are passionately committed to combating all forms of bigotry and intolerance.
I’m reminded of the quote by Martin Niemoeller that expresses our responsibility to stand up for each other and to engage in interfaith dialogue:
First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was not one of them, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not Jewish, so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.
The more we work together, the more doors we can open, and the more we increase our odds for finding success and for having our message resonate with a wider audience. Education and interfaith dialogue are two of the tools we have at our disposal to counter hatred and discrimination.
It is clear that governments alone cannot change the attitudes of society. It takes government and civil society working in concert with each other. When different groups come together to work cooperatively, when we share ideas and coordinate efforts, we can effect change.
Let us ensure that the conversations begun here will continue when this week’s conference is over. I trust that program initiatives, and improved networking will come out of our discussions. And, most importantly, I eagerly anticipate working with all of you working toward the goals we share and the vision of a better world to which Tom Lantos devoted his life.
The United Nations General Assembly established International Day of the Girl Child to remind us that the dignity and rights of every girl must be upheld not just on this day, but on all days. This year, we especially remember that education is critical to this goal.
According to UNICEF, approximately one out of every three females in the developing world is forced to marry as a young teenager or child, and there is clear evidence that girls who marry before adulthood are more likely to leave school early due to pregnancy. Yet educating girls enables them to fight discrimination and violence, lift themselves out of poverty, and escape the harmful situations in which so many become trapped, all while helping society as a whole and saving lives. It is the key to narrowing income gaps between men and women, and countries like Jordan, Pakistan, and Argentina have shown that when girls get a secondary education they can increase their earning potential significantly. Education also helps prevent child hunger, as providing mothers with just a primary education would save 1.7 million children from stunted growth and malnutrition each year.
As we redouble our commitment to the right of all girls to grow into independent, educated women, we should bear in mind the story of Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani who was shot by the Taliban because she bravely insisted that girls be allowed to attend school. Today I met Malala and was reminded of her powerful speech at the United Nations last July. Speaking for all children, she urged the world to guarantee free education so that girls and boys might “empower ourselves with the weapon of knowledge and . . . shield ourselves with unity and togetherness.” On this International Day of the Girl Child, we should rededicate ourselves to removing the obstacles of bigotry and poverty that hold girls back, and to constructing new platforms of learning and opportunity upon which future progress may be built.
Cross posted from: USUN
Thank you and greetings to all of you.
A year ago this week, in Pakistan’s Swat valley, a masked gunman boarded a school bus. Waving his firearm at the students, he demanded to know; “Which one is Malala? Which one is Malala? Tell me or I will shoot you all.”
When a bus full of frightened eyes revealed the truth; the gunman approached 15 year old Malala Yousafzi and – at point blank range — shot her twice, with bullets piercing her head and neck.
For days young Malala was unconscious; part of her skull was removed to relieve the swelling; amid the pain and dreams, she became uncertain whether she was alive or dead; but in Malala’s own words, quote: “I think death didn’t want to kill me. And God was with me…and the people prayed.” End quote.
Here in the United States, we’ve had more than our share of experiences with gun-related violence, including attacks on school children; often we characterize such tragedies as senseless, caused by inner demons, a personal grievance, a petty theft.
But Malala Yousafzai was shot for a reason. And that reason was fear – fear of knowledge, fear of freedom, fear of truth, and fear of change.
Years before that terrible day, this young woman had already become her country’s leading champion of the right of girls to attend school; when the Pakistani Taliban tried to deny that right – she fought back with the only tools she had – her voice, a blog, and defiance of the repeated death threats made against her.
Young and brave, she was noticed and she was listened to; this little girl became scary. With her growing appeal and her refusal to go away, she got under the skin of the Taliban, who recognized the danger she posed to their ideology. Her fearlessness terrified them. So the Taliban struck using the means they have come to know best – cold-blooded murder. But in striving to blot out Malala’s words, they amplified her message far beyond the Swat Valley, calling attention to the justice of her cause in every corner of every continent.
For that we are grateful, because the journey Malala is asking us to take is a necessary one. At the start of this century, the world established a set of landmark goals, one of which was ensuring access to primary education for every boy and every girl; in the years since, we’ve made progress but some 57 million school age children remain outside the classroom – and last year, for the first time in a decade, international assistance – international aid for education decreased.
In Malala’s home country of Pakistan, fully a third of young people who should be attending school are not. Enrollment rates are lower for girls, for children who live in rural areas, and for the poor.
Obstacles include the kind of medieval pressures imposed by the Taliban, but also a shortage of teachers, supplies, security, and money. When families struggle with poverty, many children who begin school don’t stay long, with boys dropping out to take jobs and girls dropping out to help domestically.
In my own home, I have two young children, and it is obvious that I want them to enjoy access to a first-rate education. But Malala reminds me – and I think all of us – that this dream is shared by families everywhere; it is every parent’s dream for their children.
Earlier this year, when the United Nations asked people in 194 countries to name their top priority – their top priority – more than two-thirds said education.
We must remember that attending school is not a privilege, but a right that enables individuals to take advantage of other rights – to speak, to organize, to earn a living, to safeguard family health, and to contribute to society. Intellectually and often ethically, education is what separates mere existence from the ability to live a full life, rich in dignity and blessed with understanding.
And so investments are urgently required to train instructors, to build schools, to transport students, and to give help to those with special needs – including refugees and children in armed conflict. Just yesterday, I returned from Central Africa, and can report that the big issue in that region is not whether to “teach to the test,” but how to bring students and teachers together safely and for more than a few days at a time.
Here in America, we often hear complaints about the size of government, but it’s the absence of effective government that’s far worse – and one of the public sector’s primary responsibilities is to provide for means of education.
Three months ago, Malala Yousafzai spoke before the United Nations General Assembly – and in front of that global audience, this 16 year old was professor to us all.
Now is the time, she said, to speak up for women’s rights and children’s rights and to ensure that no girl and no boy is denied an education because their families can’t afford it, or because their school has been destroyed by conflict, or because adults are afraid that knowledge will shatter the dubious comfort of their own narrow and bitter view of the world.
Malala spoke that day with telling affection about her home country, and about the Pakistani people’s desire for prosperity, dignity and peace. Of the Taliban, whose threats against her continue, she expressed only the prayer that their children, all of their children, will have access to a real education as well.
Mixed with the courage in Malala’s words, there is both personal humility and profound confidence; with passion in her voice, she summons us to unleash the power of young minds; to fight back against illiteracy, poverty, and terrorism; and to know in our hearts that – again, in her words – “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world.”
“Education is the only solution,” she declares, adding that, with sufficient bravery and respect for one another “No one can stop us.”
Last year at this time, the Taliban asked “Which one is Malala?” Now the whole world knows which one is Malala. And we – and they — have started to look around and to see that there are Malalas everywhere.
The 92nd Street Y is my favorite venue, Christiane Amanpour is the world’s foremost interviewer, and tonight we come together in the presence of a remarkable young woman to listen and to learn.
Malala, in your fervent wish to know more, you have become all of our teachers. And for that, and many other things to come, you have our eternal thanks.
Ladies and gentlemen, Malala Yousafzi, her father, and Christiane Amanpour.
Cross posted from: USUN
Ambassador Power on the Awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
On behalf of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations I offer my warm congratulations to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and its Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü on being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for helping to rid the world of its stockpiles of deadly chemical weapons.
This most prestigious of awards reflects the international community’s determination to end the threat that chemical weapons pose to people everywhere. Its presentation comes in the wake of the horrific chemical weapons attack perpetrated on August 21 by the Syrian government against neighborhoods near Damascus. Late last month, the international community came together and spoke unanimously and unequivocally through the UN Security Council to require Syria to ensure that its chemical weapons are fully and swiftly destroyed.
In honoring the OPCW’s vision and mandate, the Nobel Committee also honors the inspectors themselves: the men and women who are already working in Syria, who are carrying out OPCW’s mission at grave personal risk. The OPCW’s work in Syria is just beginning, but today we also recall the OPCW’s brave and extensive work for the past 16 years in overseeing the elimination of 80 percent of the world’s declared chemical weapons stocks. Today’s announcement helps put the spotlight on this important work, and the profound suffering caused by the August 21 attack, and those that preceded it, underscores the human stakes of OPCW achieving its mission, and of the world remaining united and vigilant in ridding the earth of deplorable, indiscriminate weapons that should have no place in peace or war.
Cross posted from: USUN
The United States would like to take advantage of the recent release of the final report of the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission to once again congratulate the people of Mongolia on their June 26th Presidential election. As the report makes clear, the election was peaceful, voter participation was high, and the election was generally conducted in a free and fair manner in accordance with the Mongolian constitution. It is particularly noteworthy that on election day, members of the Observation Mission gave a positive assessment to 99 percent of the polling stations observed – a true testament to the dedication of Mongolia’s public servants to ensure the integrity of Mongolia’s electoral system. These elections demonstrate Mongolia’s continued commitment to the further development of the principles of democracy and free and fair elections.
Of course, the final report highlighted several areas for Mongolia to focus on improving in order to fully meet its OSCE commitments. Notable recommendations cover areas such as media and freedom of expression; election administration; and maintaining the secrecy of the ballot. The United States encourages Mongolia to implement all of the Report’s recommendations, and we encourage ODIHR to assist Mongolia in this effort where appropriate.
We thank the government of Mongolia for its close cooperation with the Election Observation Mission. After more than two decades of impressive democratic and market economic transformation, Mongolia continues to serve as a positive example for emerging democracies around the world. However, not content to rest on its laurels, Mongolia continues to work hard to strengthen its democracy. This report will serve as an important tool for Mongolia to achieve this goal.
Finally, the United States is proud to have contributed election observers to this mission. We express our appreciation for the wide-range of support to the election provided by other participating States as well. We would also like to thank ODIHR for organizing an unbiased and professional monitoring team. Being the first such ODIHR mission in Mongolia presented several logistical and organizational challenges, from mapping the location of polling stations to identifying enough qualified interpreters. The Mission overcame these challenges and provided a valuable service to the OSCE’s newest participating State.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm the United States’ strong support for Mongolia’s request for a Field Presence in Mongolia. We believe that this request should be given due consideration in the near term and – as has been our past practice – the OSCE participating States should not deny such a request from a participating State.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
We commend the Government of Azerbaijan for inviting ODIHR and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly to observe this election. The United States is proud to have contributed two Long-Term Observers and 25 Short-Term Observers to the observation mission, and we thank all 41 of the participating States that provided support to this mission.
The United States offers its strong support for the October 10 preliminary statement of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA) on the October 9 Presidential election in Azerbaijan. We commend the close cooperation of ODIHR and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly as they observed the election and offered a joint, clear assessment of the many serious shortcomings that need to be addressed in order for Azerbaijan to fully meet its OSCE commitments. On the basis of the joint ODIHR and OSCE Parliamentary Assembly initial assessment, which stated that the election “was undermined by limitations on the freedoms of expression, assembly, and association,” highlighted that the campaign was marred by “candidate and voter intimidation and a restrictive media environment,” and cited “significant problems…throughout all stages of election day processes,” we regret that this election fell far short of the international standards and Azerbaijan’s commitments to the OSCE.
Deputy Spokesperson of the U.S. State Department Marie Harf, in a statement on October 10, highlighted the report of ODIHR and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and noted that election day procedural irregularities included ballot box stuffing, serious problems with vote counting, and failure to record the number of received ballots. She also stated that “leading up to election day, the Government of Azerbaijan also maintained a repressive political environment. Authorities interfered with the media and civil society routinely, sometimes violently interrupted peaceful rallies and meetings before and occasionally during the campaign period, and jailed a number of opposition and youth activists.”
At the same time, the United States notes the comments in the ODIHR and OSCE Parliamentary Assembly preliminary statement on constructive steps taken by the Government of Azerbaijan during the election campaign, including the successful registration of Jamil Hasanli and certain other opposition candidates, authorization of some opposition campaign rallies, and efficient technical preparation for the election.
The United States urges the Government of Azerbaijan to respect its OSCE commitments in areas including freedoms of peaceful assembly, association, and expression. We urge restraint and avoidance of violence by all in the post election period. We remain committed to supporting the people of Azerbaijan and working with the Government to further efforts to achieve Azerbaijan’s full potential as a stable, prosperous, and democratic member of the international community.
We urge the authorities to conduct a transparent, credible investigation of all reported electoral violations and to implement the recommendations made in ODIHR’s final report.
Finally, we note with deep concern the statements by some elements of the OSCE and participating States that appear to call into question the role of ODIHR and the Parliamentary Assembly and our obligations as participating States in the field of democratic elections and observation. At the 1999 Istanbul Summit, participating States made a clear commitment to election observation and to abide by the recommendations of ODIHR and the Parliamentary Assembly. In particular, at Istanbul, participating States reaffirmed “our obligation to conduct free and fair elections in accordance with OSCE commitments, in particular the 1990 Copenhagen Document. We recognize the assistance the ODIHR can provide to participating States in developing and implementing electoral legislation. In line with these commitments, we will invite observers to our elections from other participating States, the ODIHR, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and appropriate institutions and organizations that wish to observe our election proceedings. We agree to follow up promptly the ODIHR’s election assessment and recommendations.”
It is troubling to us that some chose to overlook that the joint ODIHR/PA report found “significant problems were observed throughout all stages of election day processes and underscored the serious nature of the shortcomings that need to be addressed in order for Azerbaijan to fully meet its OSCE commitments for genuine and democratic standards.” ODIHR and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly worked closely together to uphold the OSCE gold-standard of impartial election monitoring and deserve the full support of all participating States and OSCE bodies.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The United States takes note of the latest round of 5+2 talks held in Brussels on October 3. We note the sides focused on issues related to freedom of movement, and encourage them to take further concrete steps in this direction.
We welcome the high-level contacts between the Moldovan Prime Minister and the Transnistrian leader in Tiraspol on September 23 prior to the latest round of talks. Such contacts can build momentum in the settlement process.
We support the efforts of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara, the Chairmanship’s Special Representative for Protracted Conflicts, Ambassador Andrii Deshchytsia, and the OSCE Mission to Moldova in their work to facilitate progress in the settlement process.
The United States strongly supports efforts to promote a peaceful settlement of the Transnistria conflict—one that respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Moldova and provides a special status for Transnistria.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The United States notes with concern and deep disappointment that the Serbian Government cancelled the Belgrade Pride Parade for the third year in a row. We echo the statements given by our Embassy in Belgrade, by Secretary General Jagland of the Council of Europe, by EU Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fule, and by many others, who have lamented the Serbian government’s choice to not stand up for those seeking to exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.
One of the basic commitments of governments is to guarantee individuals the fundamental freedoms of peaceful assembly, association, and expression. One of the ways to measure or assess a government’s success at protecting these rights is how it protects them for members of groups that “may be unpopular.” We are disappointed that the Serbian Government acquiesced to those who threatened violence.
We commend the Belgrade police for the work they did to identify security threats and prepare for the Parade. The extent of those preparations gives us further confidence that Serbian authorities have the ability to provide adequate security for the Pride Parade. We acknowledge and support President Tomislav Nikolić’s call for preparations to begin now to ensure that next year’s Pride Parade can be held successfully; we urge the Serbian Government to heed this call and commit now to hold the parade in 2014.
Serbia must uphold its international obligation to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. As the 2015 OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Serbia bears a particular responsibility to set the highest standard possible in implementing all of its OSCE commitments.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The United States warmly welcomes Her Excellency Maia Panjikidze, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, to the OSCE Permanent Council.
Georgia is an important partner of the United States. We have broad cooperation based on shared values and common interests. The strength of our relations is affirmed by the “U.S.-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership,” which includes cooperation in priority areas such as: democracy; defense and security; economic, trade, and energy issues; and people-to-people and cultural exchanges. We are also grateful for Georgia’s steadfast partnership in Afghanistan, where Georgian troops stand alongside American servicemen and women, working without caveats as the largest non-NATO contributor, in some of the most dangerous regions. We appreciate the sacrifices and efforts being made every day by Georgia.
Your Excellency, the United States remains deeply concerned by accelerated and ongoing “borderization” activities along the administrative boundary lines (ABL) for the Russian-occupied Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which first began several years ago. The increased pace of these activities near villages like Dvani, Ditsi and Khurvaleti further separates families and neighbors, and has a profound negative impact on the lives and livelihoods of populations on both sides of the barbed wire, cutting off local communities from their farm land, keeping children from attending school, and blocking access to cemeteries. Such “borderization” is inconsistent with Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.
We continue to call for these barriers to be removed in accordance with Russia’s commitments under the August 2008 ceasefire agreement and its obligations under international humanitarian law – a call we will continue to make in Washington, here in Vienna, and at other international venues, including at the Geneva International Discussions. We appreciate the ongoing efforts of the Geneva Co-Chairs to facilitate progress towards these goals, and reiterate our support for the vital work of the European Union Monitoring Mission in promoting transparency and stability along the ABLs with the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions of Georgia. We welcome the Georgian government’s continued, peaceful approach to the resolution of these conflicts, and encourage all sides to engage in meaningful dialogue to resolve this situation.
The United States also looks forward to the upcoming presidential election on October 27 as an opportunity for Georgia to demonstrate its continued democratic development and advance its Euro-Atlantic aspirations. The fairness of the campaign environment – including adherence to the rule of law, media access, and transparency – will directly affect Georgia’s progress towards its Euro-Atlantic goals. We commend the government for its early invitation to the OSCE to monitor this election, and we commend the work of domestic and international monitors, whose impartial election observation efforts will be a key factor in whether the election process is assessed as democratic, both domestically and internationally. At the same time, challenges remain and must be addressed. We urge the appropriate authorities to respond in a timely manner to recent concerns, including reports of the participation of civil servants in pre-election campaigning during business hours, continued dismissals (or pressure to do so) of local officials, reports of disruptions and/or violence at minority party campaign events, the Georgian Public Broadcaster’s (GPB) recent closure of two political talk shows and firing of their hosts, and reports of pressure on the GPB Board of Trustees.
We support the OSCE’s on-going activities in Georgia in all three dimensions. The education project of the High Commissioner on National Minorities, the water project on both sides of the South Ossetia ABL, and ODIHR’s trial monitoring project demonstrate the value the Organization can provide in promoting security and stability in the region based on its comprehensive approach. As we look to the near future, the United States hopes there will be further opportunities for Georgia to expand its cooperation with the OSCE. Indeed, as the United States has stated on numerous occasions, we continue to support the re-establishment of a meaningful OSCE presence in Georgia.
In conclusion, we look forward to timely, concrete and peaceful actions to resolve the conflicts in Georgia. We welcome Georgia’s efforts to conduct elections in line with democratic commitments and call on the country to address shortcomings and recommendations. We also value Georgia’s engagement with the OSCE, and we hope that your appearance here today will help to further those relations.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ambassador Baer Response to the Report by the Representative to the Latvian-Russian Joint Commission on Military Pensioners
We welcome the return of Lieutenant Colonel Napiontek to the Permanent Council and thank him for his report.
The United States considers good relations between neighbors a vital indication that our shared objective of cooperative and indivisible security is being realized. Although Lieutenant Colonel Napiontek’s report shows that Latvia and the Russian Federation are continuing their cooperation, certain obstacles still remain.
We urge both parties to continue their productive collaboration on the issue of military pensioners, to enhance efforts to resolve their disagreements pertaining to the 1994 agreement, and to update the agreement on medical care expenses so that actual costs are reflected.
While the OSCE will remain supportive of the Joint Commission’s onward efforts, we would like the two parties to eventually reach a point where active OSCE engagement is no longer required.
Thank you, Madam Chairperson.