February 2020 Monthly Forecast

SECURITY COUNCIL AND WIDER UN STRUCTURE

OSCE Briefing

Expected Council Action

In February, Albanian Prime Minister and Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Edi Rama, the current Chairperson-in-Office for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), is expected to provide a briefing to the Security Council on the activities of the organisation.

Background

The Council has received annual briefings by the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office since 2004. The chairmanship of the OSCE rotates yearly, and on 1 January, Albania succeeded Slovakia in this function. February’s debate will give the Chairperson-in-Office an opportunity to inform the Council about Albania’s main priorities as chair and discuss possible avenues for cooperation.

Albania announced that its agenda will include efforts to combat corruption, human trafficking and the spread of hate speech across the region. Prime Minister Rama further indicated that the conflict in eastern Ukraine would be a top priority on his agenda in the upcoming year. The OSCE is the leading organisation responsible for monitoring the implementation of the 2015 Minsk agreements, which outline a roadmap for resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine and were endorsed by the Security Council in resolution 2202 (2015). The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) gathers daily information related to ceasefire violations and the withdrawal of heavy weapons in eastern Ukraine.

Given the OSCE’s access to information on the ground, Rama’s briefing will serve as an important opportunity for Council members to hear about developments in the implementation of the Minsk agreements. In late 2019, political negotiations led to incremental progress on some elements of the agreement, which in turn helped facilitate a gradual easing of tensions in eastern Ukraine.

On 9 December 2019, a meeting of the Normandy format—a group consisting of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine that was created in 2014 with the aim of resolving the conflict in Ukraine—took place in Paris. The summit, which was the first gathering of the Normandy format in over three years, also served as a platform for the first meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. While the summit did not facilitate major breakthroughs in the political stalemate between Russia and Ukraine, agreements were made on several confidence-building measures, such as prisoner exchanges, creation of new disengagement areas, and the opening of new crossing points along the contact line. On 29 December 2019, the OSCE monitored and facilitated an exchange of 200 prisoners between Russia and Ukraine in line with the agreements made at the Normandy format summit.

The leaders of the Normandy format agreed to meet again within four months after the December 2019 summit to discuss such issues as control of the Ukrainian-Russian border and the organisation of local elections in eastern Ukraine. These issues, along with the question of the status of the rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine, remain the most contentious points of disagreement between Russia and Ukraine. While the Minsk agreements call for the holding of local elections in eastern Ukraine, each side has a different interpretation of the conditions that should be met before such elections can take place. At the Normandy format summit, President Zelenskyy emphasised that elections cannot take place in eastern Ukraine until all foreign military forces and equipment are withdrawn and Ukraine regains control of the border. However, President Putin maintained that under the Minsk agreements, Ukraine can regain control of the border only after the holding of the elections. If these disagreements are resolved and elections are held in eastern Ukraine, the OSCE will be responsible for facilitating the elections, in accordance with the terms outlined in the Minsk agreements.

According to OSCE figures, the past year has seen a decrease in the level of violence in eastern Ukraine, with civilian casualties in 2019 falling to the lowest level since the beginning of the conflict in 2014. Violations of the ceasefire agreement in eastern Ukraine continued in 2020, despite the agreement reached between the leaders of Ukraine and Russia at the Normandy format summit to commit to full implementation of the ceasefire. While the number of violations in January dropped sizeably compared to the figures in late 2019, these violations continue to destabilise the situation on the ground in eastern Ukraine. Following incidents on 18 and 19 January, in which two Ukrainian soldiers were killed and ten wounded, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko expressed Kyiv’s intention to discuss the recent uptick in violence with Germany and France.

In addition to the situation in Ukraine, the Chairperson-in-Office is likely to address other conflict situations in the OSCE’s area of operations during February’s briefing. The OSCE plays a role in international efforts regarding frozen conflicts in Georgia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Transdniestria. Given that these conflicts are not regularly discussed by the Council, some members might want to use the opportunity of the briefing to hear about the OSCE’s mediation efforts in these situations.

UN DOCUMENTS ON THE OSCE

Security Council Resolutions
17 February 2015S/RES/2202 This was a resolution that endorsed the “Package of measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements” signed on 12 February 2015.
Security Council Meeting Records
7 March 2019S/PV.8479 This was a briefing by Slovakian Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák, OSCE Chairperson-in-Office.
7 May 2004S/PV.4964 This was the first public briefing by the Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE.