HAMBURG, Dec. 8 (Xinhua) -- Efforts to resolve the conflict in Ukraine and Syria and strengthen the dialogue on security issues in Europe were the main topics of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)'s annual ministerial council meeting here Thursday.
The two-day meeting gathered some 50 foreign ministers from across the OSCE region, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and EU High Representative Federica Mogherini.
In his opening statement, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said a strong OSCE was "indispensable" and that the organization was needed now more than ever for a secure Europe.
"We need structures of dialogue and cooperation... Especially in these times we need the OSCE as a lighthouse, which gives us orientation," he said.
A ceasefire in Ukraine requires political will, said Steinmeier, noting that all sides must proceed in the way laid out by the Minsk agreements.
Steinmeier called on participants to focus on the new challenges and threats, such as terrorism, radicalization, cyber issues, migration, and discrimination and hatred of all kinds.
In her address, president of the OSCE parliamentary assembly Christine Muttonen admitted that various parties were struggling with developing a common response to the refugee and migrant crisis.
"At the same time, we must continue our efforts to counter violent extremism, to promote arms control, to defend human rights, and even to combat climate change," she said.
Just prior to the meeting, Steinmeier also demanded constructive participation in the OSCE from the Russian side during a meeting with his Russian counterpart on Wednesday night.
The ministerial council is the central decision-making and governing body of the OSCE. The meeting, held annually, provides foreign ministers of the 57 OSCE participating states an opportunity to review, assess, and discuss the organization's activities in the OSCE area.
This year in Hamburg, the foreign ministers will focus on efforts to settle existing conflicts in the OSCE area, in particular regarding the crisis in and around Ukraine, strengthening the OSCE's capacities in civilian crisis management, reviving conventional arms control as well as empowering the OSCE to effectively address new global challenges.
The council will also set the course for the future work of the OSCE with Austria which takes over the chairmanship from Jan. 1, 2017.