Vienna, 27 November 2007 - "Kosovo is a great challenge not only for the stability in the Western Balkans, but also for the European Union. The solution to the questing concerning the future status of Kosovo is a European task", said State Secretary Hans Winkler in the Parliament’s Foreign Policy Committee in representation of Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, who is taking part in the Annapolis conference at the invitation of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
"The negotiations currently under way are the last attempt - within the time schedule defined for this purpose - to reach a consensual solution. Until completion of the negotiations, there is always hope that a solution acceptable for both sides will be found. Therefore, it makes no sense now to speculate on safeguard positions", said Winkler, who recently underscored Austria’s full support for the plan by UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari. "In any case, a return to the status quo ante is out of the question. Austria is interested in finding a solution soon."
Winkler, however, stressed the need to address the issue of international presence in case no agreement is reached between Belgrade and Pristina: "The stability in the region must remain the main objective of the international community. A prolongation of the presence of international security forces requires a clear legal basis. I am confident that the EU will find a united position on this."
Asked about the current security situation in Chad, the State Secretary stressed that "There is a continuous exchange of information between the Foreign and the Defence Ministry on the issue of the security situation in Chad. Of course, the safety of our soldiers is our prime concern throughout the entire mission. Peacekeeping means bringing peace to a region, guaranteeing the protection of refugees and internally displaced persons, and creating the necessary conditions for their return. Therefore, especially now it is appropriate to demonstrate international presence to prevent further conflicts", said Winkler.
The State Secretary also stressed that the mission in Chad is not in any way linked to Austria's application for a non-permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. "The candidature is a comprehensive process. It is about how a country positions itself on the international stage over the years, and not about short-term election sweeteners. Our decision to send soldiers to Chad clearly has nothing to do with our candidature."
Winkler also referred to the current Middle East conference in Annapolis: "Let's hope that the current efforts will bring a new impulse to the peace process." In this context, the State Secretary also emphasized the numerous initiatives by Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, especially with regard to the contribution of women in peace processes and in the area of reconstruction: "Every initiative that also aims at discussing the necessary environment for a peaceful solution on several levels represents a significant contribution to the solution of the conflict. Annapolis is a much needed initial impulse to combine several serious efforts to bring peace to the region."
Asked about Vienna as an official UN seat, Winkler said that "As one of the three official seats of the United Nations, Vienna has become a centre for sustainable security in the 21st century. Today, Vienna is making an indispensable contribution in many issues relating to the establishment and protection of peace and security. Only recently, the opening of the new headquarters of the OSCE in Vienna was an additional contribution to strengthening European security policy."
Commenting on the prevention of a comprehensive OSCE election monitoring in Russia, Winkler said that "Russia is not doing itself a favour with this. After all, this is about professional and internationally recognized monitoring by the ODIHR. This development is highly regrettable. Democracy has its rules, and they must be followed by every democratic country."
During the Committee session, the State Secretary also addressed several information initiatives both on the EU Reform Treaty and on general European issues. "A great amount of information is already available - ranging from the possibility of school visits to the Foreign Ministry, numerous discussion events, and the Europe Hotline to several brochures on the Reform Treaty. Unfortunately, there will always be a false presentation of developments, which, quite simply, is not true. It is more useful, however, to maintain a critical and objective approach", said Winkler.
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