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OSCE military observers to wait in Kherson for permission to visit Crimea

March 06, 19:53 UTC+3 VIENNA
Earlier in the day, the observers were not allowed to enter Crimea
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© ITAR-TASS/Stanislav Krasilnikov

VIENNA, March 06. /ITAR-TASS/. Military observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will stay in Kherson, mainland Ukraine, to wait for permission to visit Crimea (autonomy within Ukraine), an OSCE official told ITAR-TASS on Thursday, March 6.

Earlier in the day, the observers were not allowed to enter Crimea (autonomy within Ukraine).

The observers were stopped at a checkpoint on the way from Odessa to Crimea.

Military observers from 21 member countries of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) left Odessa, Ukraine, by bus and headed to Crimea (autonomy within Ukraine).

On Wednesday, March 5, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry said the observers had failed to reach Crimea.

The group of experts was set up after Ukraine had sent an invitation to its OSCE partners. Twenty-one countries responded. A total of 40 observers and one Conflict Prevention Centre official left for Ukraine.

The decision to send observers to Ukraine was made by Great Britain, Hungary, Germany, Denmark, Ireland, Canada, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Turkey, the United States, Finland, France, the Czech Republic, Sweden, and Estonia. They were later joined by Austria, Iceland and Italy.

Under the Vienna Document on confidence-building measures and security, each country can send no more than two experts. No mandate of the OSCE Permanent Council is need for forming a group of observers.

The visit is taking place under Chapter III of the Vienna Document 2011, which allows for voluntary hosting of visits to dispel concerns about unusual military activities. Ukraine has requested all OSCE participating States to send military representatives from March 5 to March 12, 2014, starting in Odessa. This is the first time this mechanism has been activated, the OSCE said.

The Vienna Document 2011 is one of the main confidence-building measures developed by the OSCE. Under this document, all participating States are required to share information on their military forces, equipment and defense planning. The Document also provides for inspections and evaluation visits that can be conducted on the territory of any participating State that has armed forces.

OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier expressed hope that “this military visit will help to de-escalate tensions in Ukraine. By providing an objective assessment of the facts on the ground, the OSCE will be better placed to foster a political solution to the current crisis through dialogue.”

“Confidence-building and transparency are key elements of the OSCE approach to security, which seeks to foster openness and dialogue as the best way to resolve conflicts in our region,” he noted.

On Tuesday, March 4, OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Swiss Foreign Minister, Didier Burkhalter, suggested establishing an international contact group on Ukraine, whose main task would be to support Ukraine in this period of transition. The group would act as a platform for co-ordination and exchange of information on international assistance and project-related activities. Burkhalter called for decisive steps towards de-escalation and a settlement of the crisis.

While discussions on a contact group are ongoing, the Personal Envoy of the CiO, Tim Guldimann, is visiting Ukraine and arrived in Crimea for consultations yesterday, at the same time as the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Astrid Thors.

The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights announced on March 3 that it would send an election observation mission to Ukraine for the presidential election of May 25. The announcement came after ODIHR received from the Ukrainian authorities an invitation to observe.

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