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Hon. Benjamin L. Cardin, Chairman
Hon. Alcee L. Hastings, Co-Chairman
For Immediate Release
February 19, 2010


Delegation Leads at International Meeting on Human Rights, Mediterranean Issues

VIENNA—U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) today led the U.S. delegation in calling for an enhanced multi-country diplomatic approach to stabilizing Afghanistan and ridding the country of Taliban.

Members of the delegation made their case during a special debate on Afghanistan – the central issue of the Winter Meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly that concluded its meeting of about 250 parliamentarians today in Vienna.

“By adhering to a planned reduction in US combat troops in Afghanistan beginning in July 2011 matched with enhanced diplomatic and development efforts from global, regional and tribal partners, we can demonstrate to the Afghan government and the Afghan people that we support them, but they are responsible for the security and future direction of their nation,” said Chairman Cardin, who also serves as vice president of the 56-country Parliamentary Assembly.

“Clearly, there are major challenges in Afghanistan related to human rights, rule of law, drug trafficking, and election reform. But I hope these negatives do not distract us in the OSCE from the essential task of defeating the Taliban and al-Qaeda,” said Helsinki Commissioner Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS). “I hope the leaders of OSCE countries will send a clear message of resolve to remain steadfast strategic partners in what will undoubtedly be a lengthy but worthwhile effort.”

“As President Obama has said, the United States did not ask for this fight. We should all recall the unity with which we acted following September 11, 2001,”said Delegate Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa). “This is not just America’s war. This is war for the safety of us all. The fight is aimed at Afghanistan because it is the heart of violent extremism practiced by Al Qaeda.”

Mediterranean Affairs
During the two-day Winter Meeting, Co-Chairman Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), who also serves as the Assembly’s Special Representative on Mediterranean Affairs, convened a multilateral discussion with parliamentarians from OSCE Mediterranean Partner countries, which include Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia.

“These forums are critical to making our Mediterranean partners more actively engaged in the Parliamentary Assembly. As we look to find ways to strengthen that partnership, it is important that the ideas and concrete actions come from them so they take further ownership of their role in the Assembly,” Rep. Hastings said.

Human Rights
The U.S. delegation continues to be well-represented in the field of human rights – a hallmark of the OSCE’S work. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), as vice-chair of the Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions, delivered a report today on how the OSCE is turning the committee’s recommendations into action. Aderholt specifically mentioned policies related to human trafficking, election observation, tolerance freedom of expression, and combating anti-Semitism that stemmed from the Committee’s resolutions.

“Much of the OSCE’s work is in keeping with our suggestions,” Rep. Aderholt said. “In particular, I would highlight the Organization’s work in the last year to raise awareness and combat human trafficking. On questions of tolerance, I’m proud to see our recommendations of the past year have resulted in the Organization calling for making data on human rights more publicly available.”

The U.S. delegation also includes Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL) and Rep Laura Richardson (D-CA).

The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, is an independent agency of the Federal Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental and military cooperation in 56 countries. The Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.

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