Malta to join OSCE military delegation to Crimea
AFM and defence secretariat officials to join 22-nation ‘unarmed’ military delegation to Ukraine
6 March 2014, 12:00am
The officials are a member of the Armed Forces of Malta and an official from the defence secretariat.
Malta is currently the the chair of the OSCE forum on security and cooperation, until April 2014.
The countries participating are Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Slovak Republic, Sweden, Turkey, the UK and the United States.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat will attend the European Council's extraordinary meeting today (Thursday) in Brussels, which discusses the unfolding situation in Ukraine.
OSCE is sending a delegation which includes 35 unarmed military personnel from 22 nations to observe the situation in Crimea amid tensions in Ukraine, according to an OSCE press release.
The decision to send an OSCE mission was discussed at a joint meeting of the Permanent Council and the Forum for Security Co-operation (FSC) in Vienna on March 4, 2014.
The mission will take place under Chapter III of the Vienna Document 2011 "which allows for voluntary hosting of visits to dispel concerns about unusual military activities," according to a press release.
"It is my hope that this military visit will help to de-escalate tensions in Ukraine," said OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier. "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," he added.
One of the delegation's main focuses is to concentrate on the potential for a military conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
Baer also added that the military observer mission is a "broad-based monitoring effort" that will try to prevent a possible "military incursion" and encourage dialogue. The observers will keep an eye out for "areas where there has been tension or uncertainty has arisen over lack of clarity over military movements."
The OSCE comprises Russia, the US, all European countries, and some central Asian nations. It is based on consensus, meaning that the majority of the monitoring missions need full approval by all nations - including OSCE member Russia.
OSCE officials were already in Ukraine on Tuesday and making their way to the Crimea, said Daniel Baer, the chief US delegate to the OSCE. The officials specialize in minority rights and freedom of the media.
Tensions in Crimea became heated after the Ukrainian parliament voted to repeal a law which gave regional status to the Russian language. Authorities in Crimea requested Moscow's assistance and Crimean authorities denounced the coup-imposed government in Kiev, declaring that all Ukrainian law enforcement and military deployed in the peninsula must take orders from them. The majority of troops in Crimea switched sides in favour of local authorities.
More than half of the Crimean population are ethnically Russian and use only the Russian language for their communication. The residents have announced they will hold a referendum on March 30 to determine the fate of the Ukrainian autonomous region.
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.
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