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30 Nov, 2023 11:01

Another EU member to boycott OSCE meeting over Russian presence

Sergey Lavrov’s attendance is “unacceptable” due to the Ukraine conflict, his Polish counterpart has insisted
Another EU member to boycott OSCE meeting over Russian presence

Poland’s top diplomat will boycott a major meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in North Macedonia to protest the participation of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Polish Foreign Minister Szymon Szynkowski vel Sek announced the decision on Wednesday, saying Lavrov’s appearance at the OSCE Ministerial Council in Skopje – which will be held from November 30 to December 1 – is “unacceptable” in light of the Ukraine conflict.

“We just cannot ignore the fact that the Russian minister of foreign affairs will be present at the table of the organization that is supposed to build peace and security in Europe,” he stated, also accusing Moscow of obstructing the OSCE’s work.

Apart from Poland, the event will also be boycotted by the foreign ministers of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, who said in a joint statement on Tuesday that Lavrov’s presence “risks legitimizing aggressor Russia as a rightful member of our community of free nations.” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba will also skip the meeting, although Kiev’s OSCE envoy will be present.

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, however, welcomed Skopje’s decision to allow Lavrov to attend the meeting, arguing that the West “must not be afraid to sit down with the Russians.”

Commenting on the minister’s arrival at the summit, North Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski denied that this is “a diplomatic victory for Russia,” rather, “a diplomatic victory for the OSCE.”

After the EU concluded that Lavrov’s trip to Skopje would not violate the sanctions on Moscow, the Russian foreign minister arrived in the North Macedonian capital on Thursday.

The plane carrying the Russian delegation was initially expected to travel through Bulgarian airspace, but had to change its route and fly over Türkiye and Greece instead, according to TASS.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova explained that Sofia had banned the flight through Bulgarian airspace due to her presence on board. She slammed what she called “the evil stupidity of Russophobes” and accused Bulgaria of violating international civil aviation law. Zakharova, along with hundreds of other Russian officials, has been under EU sanctions since February 2022, when Moscow launched its military operation in Ukraine.

Earlier this week, the spokeswoman also claimed that several Western countries were trying to hinder Moscow’s participation at the OSCE meeting, with several Russian journalists barred from covering the summit.

The high-level OSCE meeting allows foreign ministers from all 57 participating countries to review, assess, and exchange views on the security situation in the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian regions.

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