Official transcript of the speech given in Vienna, 18th January 2023.
Thank you, Chair, dear Sinisa. I wish to start by offering my heartfelt condolences to Ukraine for those who have lost their lives and have been affected by this morning’s helicopter crash.
Thank you and welcome Deputy Minister Brkic, for clearly outlining your priorities as incoming Chair of the Forum for Security Co-operation (FSC) this trimester.
Bosnia and Herzegovina assumes the role just under eleven months following Russia’s unprovoked, premeditated and barbaric full-scale invasion of Ukraine. An invasion which blatantly disregards the OSCE principles and commitments that we all freely signed up to. An invasion that the FSC must remain focused on, in defence of the values that underpin our collective security.
As we know, Bosnia and Herzegovina has lived the horrors of war and walked the path towards becoming a functional, reform-oriented, European country. The UK remains committed to supporting this process – as a friend and ally, as well as a signatory to the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Agreement remains an important landmark document that is vital to peace and security not just to Bosnia and Herzegovina but the whole region. It has also shaped the OSCE Field Mission’s crucial work.
We will no doubt benefit from the experience and the expertise of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Security Dialogues this trimester, including on: Small Arms, Light Weapons, and Stockpiles of Conventional Ammunition (SALW/SCA); the Code of Conduct; and on Mine Action.
Equally, we must continue to highlight the impact of Russia’s brutal war of conquest against Ukraine.
Mr Chair, whilst the FSC paused over the winter period, our Ukrainian friends could not. UK military assistance, with that of our partners, continued in earnest too. On Monday, the UK Defence Secretary announced the most significant package to date, to accelerate Ukrainian success. Time and again, Ukraine has shown the effect of agility and ingenuity.
In response, we have seen an out-manoeuvred and frustrated Russian military unleash horrendous violence on civilians and critical national infrastructure. Over the last four weeks, extremely heavy and attritional fighting has continued, especially around the Donetsk Oblast town of Bakhmut, and in the less reported-on sector of Kremina, in Luhansk.
Russia’s horrendous missile strike on an apartment block in Dnipro over the weekend killed over 40 people. It appears to have been conducted using the Kh-22 anti-ship missile which is not optimised to strike ground targets accurately, especially in an urban environment.
This is irresponsible and greatly increases the likelihood of disproportionate collateral damage. Russia knows this. It used the Kh-22 in the Kremenchuk shopping centre strike of 27 June last year. Either it does not care if it kills civilians, or it is deliberately targeting them.
Mr Chair, no one can deny the Belarusian regime is an active supporter of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. However, Russia is increasingly attempting to use Belarus to distract from its own failures.
This includes the current Joint Russian-Belarusian air exercise, which aims to highlight Belarusian support and divert attention. We call on the Belarusian regime to recognise this, desist from supporting Russia’s attempts to stoke further regional instability and stop its support of Russia’s illegal invasion.
Mr Chair, on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) – the women of Ukraine are yet another powerful reminder of how women’s full, equal and meaningful participation can support better outcomes. The UK’s new WPS National Action Plan, being launched early this year, will respond to the new global context, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
I wish to conclude by welcoming our colleagues from Bosnia and Herzegovina as FSC Chair this trimester. You can count on the UK to support you in protecting the integrity of this Forum, its ability to fulfil its mandate, and to maintain the focus on Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. We warmly welcome Bulgaria to the FSC troika. ‘
I wish you, Mr Chair, dear Sinisa, and your able teams in Vienna and Sarajevo, and you Deputy Minister, the best of luck.
Sources: THX News & Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and Neil Bush.