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Rice Remarks To OSCE 14th Annual Session

Opening Remarks at OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's 14th Annual Session

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
JW Marriott Hotel
Washington, DC
July 1, 2005

(2:55 p.m. EDT)


SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much. Thank you so much, Congressman Hastings, for that really warm welcome and your leadership of this great organization. I appreciate the kind invitation to address the distinguished members here of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. I appreciate this opportunity to reaffirm President Bush's deep commitment to the OSCE and to its important work in advancing freedom.

Strong parliaments, representative of and answerable to the people, are essential to the defense of human liberty and the growth of vibrant democracies. I thank the legislators who are here today who have labored so tirelessly for human rights, the rule of law, free and fair elections, and the development of transparent, accountable institutions of government across the OSCE community and around the globe. And I applaud the Parliamentary Assembly for helping to build vital support in national parliaments for OSCE's efforts.

I am deeply honored to share the platform today with Speaker Hastert. Your presence here today, Mr. Speaker, testifies to the steadfast support of the United States Congress and the American people for the OSCE and the democratic principles it enshrines.

I want thank all of the officials of the OSCE who are here, especially my friend, Foreign Minister Rupel of Slovenia, the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, for his wise leadership. And I can assure you, we've spent a lot of time on the telephone together in recent months as we have worked our way through multiple challenges.

My appreciation to Senator Voinovich for leading the U.S. Delegation, Senator Brownback, Congressman Smith the Co-Chairs of our own Helsinki Commission here in the audience -- for their expert counsel.

And I would just like to draw attention to the fact that I want to thank our outgoing Ambassador to the OSCE, Ambassador Stephan Minikes, who has really distinguished himself in bringing the OSCE agenda into the center of American foreign policy, and to welcome Julie Finley, who was recently confirmed by the U.S. Senate as our new Ambassador to the OSCE.

On August 1, we will mark the 30th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act. The Final Act's principles linking security among states to respect for human rights within states form the core of the OSCE to this day. Thirty years ago, the Helsinki accords stirred great controversy here in the United States, as well as in Canada and in Western Europe. Many feared that the West was legitimizing Soviet domination of Eastern Europe in exchange for paper promises on security and human rights. And so, when President Gerald Ford signed the accords, he spoke these prophetic words to the leaders who had gathered from East and West: "History will judge this Conference," he said, "not by what we say here today but by what we do tomorrow, not by the promises we make, but by the promises we keep."

The following May, physicist and human rights activist Yuri Orlov held a press conference in Moscow to announce the formation of a citizens' group to promote compliance with the Helsinki agreement. With a smile, Orlov asked the members of the group to join him in the traditional toast of Soviet dissidents: "To the success of our hopeless cause!"

Later, other citizens' groups were established in Ukraine, Lithuania, Armenia and Georgia, and similar efforts were undertaken in Czechoslovakia, Poland and elsewhere. These brave men and women did not accept the Final Act as a legitimation of the unacceptable status quo. Instead, they seized on the Helsinki agreement as an instrument with which to press for human rights and peaceful change. One by one, they were to feel the heavy hand of oppression. But they never stopped believing in the power of the Helsinki principles to advance the cause of freedom and they challenged the signatory states to transform the paper promises into determined acts of political will.

Because these courageous men and women did not give up -- and because the free nations of the West kept faith with them and with our own democratic principles -- what seemed a hopeless cause three decades ago has been transformed into a hopeful future for tens of millions of people.

In the three decades since the signing of the Helsinki accords, we have seen a Europe divided by force united in peace. We have seen captive nations free themselves from communist tyranny and closed societies open to a world of ideas and information. We have seen courageous men and women of conscience emerge from long years of persecution to lead their countries onto the path of democracy. For the past thirty years, the Helsinki process has not just borne witness to historic transformations, the Helsinki process has helped to bring those transformations about.

And today, all around the globe, men and women are embracing the same universal values that are enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act. Impatient patriots are calling upon their governments to meet the non-negotiable demands of human dignity, and by doing so, they are helping to establish the foundations for lasting security. Who could have imagined that the men and women of Afghanistan would line up along long, dusty roads to cast their ballots or that OSCE monitors would be there observing those unprecedented elections? Who would have imagined that millions of Iraqis would defy death threats to vote? Or that free and fair elections would be held in the Palestinian territories? And who in their wildest dreams could have imagined the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon?

In the last year alone within our own OSCE community, we saw citizens rise in the multitudes of rose and orange and tulip to secure a democratic future for their countries. As we meet, the OSCE is helping Kyrgyzstan to prepare for its presidential elections only ten days away elections that hold so much hope for Kyrgyzstan's democratic future.

The gains for freedom have been dramatic, but much remains to be done if Helsinki's great promise is to be fully realized in all 55 signatory states.

Regrettably, the governments of some OSCE states, most notably Belarus and Uzbekistan, are failing to live up to their commitments on human rights, democracy and the rule of law. They reject OSCE's offers of assistance, charging interference in their internal affairs. That was a false charge when the Soviets made it and it is a false charge now.

Elsewhere in our OSCE community, frozen conflicts in the Caucasus and Moldova have yet to be resolved through peaceful settlements. And tensions in these regions also must be reduced through Russia's fulfillment of its Istanbul Commitments. The recent agreement between Russia and Georgia is a positive step toward fulfilling those commitments.

And even as we work to resolve old conflicts, we must work together to address the new transnational security threat from terrorism.

There is much that we still must do within our OSCE community to combat anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination, including discrimination against Muslims, and to put an end to trafficking in persons. There is work to be done on behalf of women's rights and the education of girls.

As the Chairman-in-Office and the Parliamentary Assembly take a fresh look at the OSCE agenda and consider these and other items, preserving the integrity of Helsinki principles and ensuring that the OSCE continues to be an agent of peaceful, democratic transformation should be paramount objectives. Any new procedures must not come at the expense of principle, and any institutional reforms should be geared to strengthening OSCE's ability to produce results on the ground, particularly through its field missions.

And, as you consider how OSCE fits into Europe's evolving architecture, I would urge you to think boldly about how OSCE's pioneering example help governments and citizens working for democracy, prosperity and peace in other parts of the world where freedom is still denied.

As it was 30 years ago, so it is today: We, the member-states of the OSCE, will be judged not by the promises we make, but by the promises we keep.

I was fortunate in 1989 to be the White House specialist on the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War. And what I remember most about those turbulent, yet hopeful, days, of the rise of solidarity and the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia and the revolution in Romania and ultimately the peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union, what I remember most is that on any given day that which had seemed impossible one day seemed inevitable the next. That is the nature of great historic change and we are in a time of great historic change.

We all know, however, that what seems inevitable is, of course, not inevitable. It takes the hard work, the dedication and the commitment of the men and women who seek their freedom. It takes the hard work and the dedicated commitment of those who would support them in organizations like this. But it also takes faith in the universal principles of freedom, liberty and human rights.

Thank you very much for all that you do every day. (Applause.)

2005/672

Released on July 1, 2005

ENDS

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