Koenders thanks OSCE for efforts in MH17 aftermath

 Without the efforts of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Netherlands would never have been able to make so much progress in repatriating human remains, personal belongings and wreckage from flight MH17, Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders said on Thursday. The Minister was speaking at the OSCE’s Ministerial Council meeting in Basel, where the tensions between Russia and Ukraine were high on the agenda.

‘The OSCE has been of great significance to the Dutch repatriation mission and it is in part thanks to them that the experts gained access to the crash site,’ said Mr Koenders. ‘The OSCE monitoring mission played a key role as an independent party. The organisation has once again proved its immense value as a forum for dialogue and cooperation.’ The minister called on the OSCE countries to continue to support the mission in Ukraine.

The disaster involving flight MH17 has shown that the tensions on Europe’s borders can suddenly be brought very close to home. ‘We cannot take security and stability for granted. We must keep investing in organisations which will help us continue the dialogue,’ Mr Koenders believes. ‘The OSCE has shown that it is one of the few organisations with the knowledge and experience needed to work towards stability in Ukraine.’

Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its far-reaching influence in eastern Ukraine have, however, put the OSCE under heavy pressure. ‘I am gravely concerned that the principles and values at the very heart of the OSCE’s international cooperation have been violated,’ said the minister. ‘But there is no other option but to continue our dialogue and cooperation. We must work hard to restore confidence.’ The minister said that the remarks made today by President Putin about Crimea do absolutely nothing to help improve the situation.

Mr Koenders believes that the OSCE consultations must continue to include a particular focus on human rights. Despite the principles and standards endorsed by all participating countries, those consultations are under pressure. ‘The severe human rights violations of the past few years are unacceptable,’ he said. He also spoke at length in Basel with human rights defenders from various OSCE countries. ‘There are too many examples of human rights violations which require attention, including the attention of the OSCE.’