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OSCE ministerial meeting kicks off, mulling Caucasus security
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Foreign ministers from 56 Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) member states gathered Thursday for a two-day meeting that would focus on the Caucasus situation and European security.

Addressing the opening session of the meeting, Finnish President Tarja Halonen said the OSCE "showed its strength" in contributing to the ceasefire of the Russia-Georgia conflict, noting that the OSCE also helped bring together the European Union and the United Nations to create a platform for the Geneva discussion on the issue.

However, "the situation is still fragile and all parties must strictly adhere to the ceasefire agreement," she warned.

Around 1,200 delegates attended the opening session of the meeting at the Helsinki Fair Center on Thursday morning.

Russia and Georgia are due to meet for a new round of talks in Geneva later this month. OSCE officials will visit Moscow next week for talks on extending the mandate of OSCE military observers in South Ossetia.

Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, whose country currently holds the rotating chairmanship of the OSCE, told the opening session that the ministers are to have a luncheon meeting Thursday discussing the new Euro-Atlantic security structures proposed earlier by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

The future of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) remained uncertain. The decision made by Russia to suspend the implementation of the treaty challenged Europe's most fundamental regime of politico-military transparency and predictability, Stubb said.

He called on the parties of the treaty to take urgent actions to safeguard this regime.

However, Stubb said he hoped the ministerial meeting would hold in-depth debate on Russia's proposal.

"President Medvedev has proposed an overhaul of the Euro-Atlantic security structures. President Sarkozy has in turn suggested that further discussion should be carried out within the OSCE," Stubb said.

"I am a great fan of frank discussion, and I hope that the working luncheon on the future of the security in Europe would provide us with plenty food of thought," he added.

Earlier on Wednesday, Stubb said the meeting is set to adopt a "two-page political declaration" on the Caucasus and European security structure.

Headquartered in Vienna, the OSCE is the world's largest security-oriented intergovernmental organization. It has 56 member states from Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and North America.

Created during the Cold War, the OSCE used to serve as an East-West forum. But it is now mainly concerned with such issues as arms control, fair elections, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation.

(Xinhua News Agency December 4, 2008)

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