Statement at the OSCE Permanent Council, 28 August 2020, by Robert Rydberg, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs

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Thank you Mr. Chairperson,

Sweden fully aligns itself with the EU-statement and reiterates its support for the Albanian chairmanship in its endeavours to facilitate a peaceful solution to the ongoing crisis in Belarus.

Sweden has closely followed the events unfolding in Belarus since the Presidential election on August 9 as well as developments leading up to the election. We share the widely held view that the Presidential elections in Belarus were neither free nor fair, therefore we do not recognize the results as presented by the Belarus Central Election Commission.

The people of Belarus have a right to determine their future. Sweden is concerned over reports of serious human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment of peaceful protesters. We are also concerned that Belarus authorities have detained and questioned several members of the Opposition’s Coordination Council. We encourage a complete and transparent investigation into allegations of human rights violations and to find a way out of the crisis through an end to violence, de-escalation, and an inclusive, open and constructive national dialogue.

The Albanian Prime Minister and Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania, Mr. Edi Rama and the Foreign Minister of Sweden, Ms. Ann Linde – as current and incoming chair of the OSCE – have offered to help facilitate a dialogue in Belarus. They have communicated their readiness to travel to Minsk to meet with the Government and representatives of the opposition in order to listen to their views regarding the situation and to discuss the current challenges facing the country. We believe that the OSCE is the right organization to play a role in the current crisis, not least since Belarus is a participating State.

Our offer stands. I note with appreciation from the Belarus statement this morning that the Government of Belarus is considering the offer, which is obviously fully in line with the procedures and practices of this Organization. We will continue our efforts to engage with all stakeholders and to extend our good offices to promote a genuine dialogue.

Belarus needs to fully comply with its OSCE commitments. We invite Belarus to avail itself of the tools at OSCE’s disposal to monitor the implementation of commitments that participating States have undertaken in the field of human rights and democracy.

As declared in 1991, and already quoted here today, “the commitments we have undertaken in the human dimension are matters of direct and legitimate concern to all participating States and do not belong exclusively to the internal affairs of the State concerned”. In this regard, ODIHR with its decades of experience and expertise in observing elections and monitoring human rights in countries throughout the OSCE, is an indispensable partner.

In conclusion, we believe that the OSCE is the right organization to play a role in the current crisis, as Belarus is a valued participating State. The OSCE, by definition, is not external interference. Sweden, as incoming chair, reiterates its readiness to be of assistance. We will continue to follow the situation closely. We hope to see a democratic, prosperous and stable Belarus in the midst of our continent.

As I had the opportunity to conclude when presenting the priorities of the Swedish 2021 chairpersonship to the Permanent Council last month: “In an era where our security is challenged through increasingly complex threats, it is through dialogue, inclusion and respect for agreed principles that we have a chance to make a real difference. The OSCE can make a difference.”

Thank you.