Top diplomats meet in North Macedonia for OSCE but some boycott Lavrov’s expected attendance

Top diplomats from more than 50 countries were arriving in North Macedonia on Wednesday while others boycotted the expected presence of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

The foreign ministers of Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania had said they would not attend the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe talks due to Lavrov’s participation during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a brief stop in North Macedonia’s capital, Skopje, for the meeting but was to leave for Israel hours later. He was not expected to encounter Lavrov, who was due in Skopje late Wednesday.

Blinken accused Russia of “flagrant violations of every single core principle” of Cold War efforts to ease East-West tensions that led to the creation of the OSCE, and “relentless efforts to obstruct the OSCE’s work.”

Speaking at NATO headquarters in Brussels earlier Wednesday, Blinken added that the other OSCE members “are showing determination to make sure the organization continues to fulfil its purpose to advance European security.”

North Macedonia, a NATO member who holds the OSCE’s rotating chairmanship, briefly suspended its ban on flights from Russia for Lavrov to fly in.

It will be a rare visit to a NATO member country for the Russian foreign minister since Russia started its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Lavrov also has visited NATO ally Turkey, which has no ban on Russian flights. In September, he was in New York to attend the U.N. gathering of world leaders.

The OSCE meeting starts with a working dinner on Wednesday. Formal talks over the next two days will discuss the future of the organization and the challenges it faces.

The meeting is expected to decide whether Malta will be elected chair for next year. Other decisions include the OSCE budget and filling key positions.

In a joint statement Tuesday, the foreign ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania said Lavrov’s presence in Skopje “will only provide Russia with yet another propaganda opportunity.” Separately, Ukraine’s foreign ministry claimed that Russia “systematically blocked the consensus on key issues,” citing its opposition to Estonia’s candidacy for chair of the organization in 2024.

Security will be high during the meetings in Skopje, and police sealed off a sports venue where they will be held. The government declared Thursday a public sector and school holiday to reduce traffic.


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