Updated 3pm with Ian Borg comment

Malta is set to chair the world’s largest security body as part of a diplomatic solution to Russia's refusal to approve Estonia for the role. 

Foreign Minister Ian Borg will hold the position as chairman-in-office of the OSCE on behalf of Malta throughout 2024. 

All member states in the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) agreed to Malta’s appointment during a permanent council meeting in Vienna on Monday. 

The decision is expected to be formalised on Thursday, during a meeting of foreign ministers in Skopje, in North Macedonia – the country which currently chairs the OSCE.

The OSCE is the world’s largest regional security organisation. It brings together 57 states from across Europe, Asia and North America to discuss and take action on conflict prevention and arms control and to foster economic development in the region, ensure sustainable use of natural resources, promote human rights, fundamental freedoms, freedom of the press and free and fair elections.

Senior sources told Times of Malta during the meeting on Monday Malta was the only country all member states – including Russia and the US – could agree on.

“Austria and other central Asian countries were proposed but Malta was the only country that enjoyed unanimous support from all member states,” one source said.

Speaking from Vienna, Foreign Minister Ian Borg said he was glad that "the name of Malta managed to garner consensus" at the preparatory meeting in the Austrian capital.

"Upon expected political confirmation of today’s decision the real hard work begins," he said.

"Together with the excellent team at the foreign office I will work every day as Chairman in Office during the next year to pay back the confidence shown in our diplomatic work and honest brokerage skills."

Foreign Minister Ian Borg greets Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, with Prime Minister Robert AbelaForeign Minister Ian Borg greets Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, with Prime Minister Robert Abela

The OSCE chairman-in-office, Minister of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia, Bujar Osmani, described the move as a "huge decision".

"Thank you Malta, for your willingness to take on this vital role and to all colleagues for your flexibility and support," he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

United States Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov are amongst the powerful diplomats expected to attend Thursday's meeting.

Robert Abela meets OSCE Secretary General

Later on Monday Prime Minister Robert Abela expressed his gratitude for the confidence shown towards Malta by the OSCE participating states. After meeting OSCE Secretary General Helga Schmid in Vienna, Abela said he looked forward to Malta hosting the OSCE Mediterranean Conference 2024.

The OSCE is one of the only organisations that still manages to bring the east and west’s great powers together, sources said. And it seems Malta enjoys a good reputation among them.

“Malta is in the EU, is not part of NATO, holds a seat in the United Nations Security Council and is respected for the positions it took on the Ukraine and Gaza wars,” one source said.

“Malta's appointment was therefore a good compromise for everyone.”

Malta has also been instrumental in bringing together diplomats from across the world for peace talks, another source said, mentioning, among others, the Ukraine Peace Summit held in Malta in October.

Russia vetoed Estonia

Estonia was due to take the lead role of the OSCE from January, but Russia vetoed its appointment. There have been historical tensions between the two countries, which intensified in the wake of the Ukraine invasion.

A different participating State chairs the OSCE every year and that state’s foreign minister serves as its chairperson.

Each member state gets to chair the organisation for one year.

Malta will also be keeping its seat on the UN Security Council until the end of next year and will be its chair again in April. 

In 2025 Malta will also assume the Presidency of the Council of Europe for the fourth time.

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