OSCE Meeting Begins with Scandal: 5 Countries Boycott It
The summit of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which is taking place in the capital of North Macedonia, Skopje, began with a massive demarche - five countries refused to participate in it because of the presence of a Russian representative at the event. This was reported by Deutsche Welle.
Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland are not participating in the OSCE meeting in protest against the participation of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The countries that did join the summit reportedly see it as an opportunity to express their opposition to Russia's war in Ukraine.
Senior diplomats from more than 50 countries are visiting the North Macedonian capital of Skopje on Thursday for the summit of the OSCE.
The meeting of the world's largest regional security group has been largely overshadowed by outrage over Russia's war against Ukraine and Moscow's participation in the event.
"Russia's aggressive war against Ukraine goes against everything this organisation holds dear," said Bujar Osmani, the North Macedonian Foreign Minister and current OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, in his opening remarks at the start of the summit.
"War undermines trust, dialogue and our ability to act," he added.
"We simply cannot ignore the fact that the Russian foreign minister will be present at the table of an organisation that is supposed to build peace and security in Europe," Polish Foreign Minister Szymon Szynkowski told reporters on Wednesday.
Balkan countries have expressed concern that Lavrov will use the OSCE meeting as a platform to spread "Russian propaganda".
Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told reporters in Skopje when she arrived at the meeting that it was important to confront Russia's "imperial madness" at the summit.
Russia has accused Western countries of trying to block its officials from attending the meeting, saying such attempts threaten the "very existence of the organisation".
Moscow was also outraged by Bulgaria's decision to ban Lavrov's plane from flying over its territory on the route to Skopje. His spokesman said on Thursday that Lavrov was forced to take a longer route over Greece.
North Macedonia, a NATO member and current OSCE president, briefly lifted its ban on Lavrov's flights from Russia.
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said he believed Lavrov's presence would be a good opportunity for Moscow's top diplomat to hear from OSCE members "why Russia is being condemned and isolated."
During the two-day meeting, the foreign ministers are also expected to ratify the decision to rotate the OSCE chairmanship.