VIENNA (Reuters) – The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a body that includes Russia and the United States and other former Cold War adversaries, is set to end a months-long impasse over filling its vacant top jobs, the U.S. envoy to the group said.
The 57-nation OSCE, best known for its election observation work and its monitoring mission in eastern Ukraine, is often involved in diplomacy around regional conflicts such as the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Member states failed this year to agree to renew the three-year terms of staff in four key roles, including the OSCE’s top full-time position of secretary general. That impasse has left those posts vacant since July.
Like other Vienna-based international organisations, the OSCE prefers to reach decisions by consensus, or unanimity. That means in-fighting among its European, Central Asian and North American member states can easily leave it deadlocked.
However, U.S. ambassador to the OSCE James Gilmore said on Tuesday that he expects participating states will agree to fill those posts when they attend an annual meeting of foreign ministers on Thursday and Friday.
“There is a package for the big four,” he told reporters, referring to the jobs of secretary general, high commissioner on national minorities, special representative for freedom of the media and head of the office for elections and human rights.
The candidate for secretary general is Helga Schmid, a German diplomat who currently has the same title at the European Union’s foreign policy office. The other three candidates are from Portugal, Kazakhstan and Italy, Gilmore said.
“The Hungarians are expressing concern over their conflict at the moment with Ukraine and … that’s spilled over into this election process but we believe that that will be resolved,” Gilmore said, referring to a spat over the treatment of ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine.
“This has the support of the 57 countries and I believe they will be elected.”
(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Sam Holmes)