SKOPJE (REPUBLIC OF NORTH MACEDONIA) - The world largest regional security organisation concluded its annual summit Friday with Russia expressing indifference over the body's future.
The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is intended as a forum for security dialogue, but Russia has been blocking key decisions at the 57-nation body, including approving a budget.
Meanwhile, Russia's 20-month-old invasion of Ukraine sparked fierce criticism from most members, and Ukraine and key allies boycotted this year's meeting in Skopje over Russia's participation.
Bujar Osmani, North Macedonia's foreign minister and OSCE chairman, put a brave face on the outcome of the two-day meeting, saying the body had been "saved" because it had managed to elect a new chair and extend the mandates of its main officials.
"The Russian aggression against Ukraine has blatantly violated the very founding principle and commitments of our organisation," Osmani told a press conference Friday.
"It also challenged the very existence of our organisation, therefore the results of this ministerial council are groundbreaking," he said.
The organisation approved Malta as the new chair for the next year, replacing NATO member Estonia, whom Moscow rejected.
The OSCE was never intended as an organisation of like-minded countries, Osmani said, stressing that the body continues "serving as an active platform for dialogue and accountability."
- Boycott -
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who attended the summit, expressed a lack of concern over its existence.
"This is the main feeling: indifference," Lavrov told reporters earlier Friday. "The organisation has already turned itself into something that makes me indifferent to what will happen to it next."
In his address Thursday, the Russian minister said the OSCE was becoming an "appendage" of NATO and the European Union.
"The organisation, let's face it, is on the edge of a precipice. A simple question arises: does it make sense to invest in its revitalisation?"
Created in 1975 as a forum for dialogue between the Eastern and Western blocs, the OSCE has been struggling to operate as Russia's war in Ukraine unleashed a torrent of tension in the organisation.
The conference in Skopje was boycotted by Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, with the latter saying Russia's presence was "unacceptable".
"Lavrov's place is at a special tribunal, not the OSCE table," Estonian Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna said earlier this week.
Ukraine wants the OSCE to expel Russia, as the Council of Europe has done, warning the body faced a "slow death".
Maltese Foreign Minister Ian Borg, incoming OSCE chairman, stressed that the agreements reached at the meeting were a "testament to our joint commitment to continue strengthening our organisation".
"We must focus on ending war and conflict. Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine must stop," he told reporters.