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Foreign ministers debate Europe's 'crisis of confidence'

Austria's foreign minister has urged dozens of counterparts to overcome a "crisis of confidence" hobbling the work of a 57-nation group tasked with reducing tensions in Europe.

Sebastian Kurz is acting chair of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a forum meant to ease disputes through compromise.

The OSCE must reach decisions by consensus, b ut regional and international rivalries are preventing agreement on issues ranging from the Ukraine crisis to filling key positions in the organisation.

In his opening speech, Mr Kurz focused on the need for common strategies on fighting terrorism and extremism.

He added that because all countries are threatened, "all (OSCE) nations must pull in the same direction".

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov is among the participants.

His country has so far refused to sign off on a candidate for the position of OSCE secretary general and other senior positions supported by a majority of other nations.

Approval by Russia would go a long way towards laying the ground for consensus after months of deadlock.

Mr Kurz emphasised Moscow's oversized role in Europe ahead of the meeting, saying: "We have to realise that peace on our continent will only be with and not against Russia."

He said the presence of Mr Lavrov will "enable the talks and contacts which are necessary to make progress" in reaching agreement on filling top OSCE vacancies.

However, Mr Lavrov was noncommittal as to the chances of overcoming the disagreement on personnel, saying only "the chance is always there".

The organisation has had no secretary general since the mandate of Lamberto Zannier of Italy ended on June 30.

Other senior vacancies are for the head of the human rights and minorities office and the representative on freedom of the media.

All four positions are being negotiated as a package, making agreement even more difficult.

AP

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