Delivering Annual Briefing, Chair of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Voices ‘Deep Concern’ over Situation in Ukraine

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29 February 2016
7635th Meeting (AM)

Delivering Annual Briefing, Chair of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Voices ‘Deep Concern’ over Situation in Ukraine

We Should Not Talk as if We Are Reliving Cold War, He Stresses in Security Council

Voicing deep concern over the situation in Ukraine, the Chair-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) stressed the need for greater confidence- and security-building measures amid the conflict there.

Briefing the Security Council, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is also Germany’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, underscored the need for strong multilateral organizations, such as the United Nations and the OSCE — the largest regional arrangement under Chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter — in realistically addressing conflicts of unprecedented complexity.

“We are not reliving the cold war and we shouldn’t talk as if we were,” he emphasized, before focusing attention on Ukraine, voicing deep concern over ongoing ceasefire violations and restrictions on access for the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in the country.  Full implementation of the Minsk Agreements was the only way towards a sustainable political solution, he stressed, calling upon all sides involved in the conflict to live up to their responsibilities.

He went on to address the high risk of military incidents involving OSCE member States Ukraine, Russian Federation and Turkey, stressing that, in such times, confidence- and security-building measures were more important than ever.  The conflict in Ukraine had exposed a need to update the Vienna Document, he said, in reference to a 2011 agreement on risk reduction, contacts and exchange of information.

Underlining the unique character of the OSCE, he suggested that its principles could provide a beacon of hope for other regions, including the Middle East, where its experiences could encourage parties in conflict to explore new paths to political settlement.

As delegates took the floor following the presentation by the Chair-in-Office, the Russian Federation’s representative described what had taken place in Ukraine was a violent coup d’état in the heart of Europe, emphasizing that the people of Crimea had chosen freely to join his country.  Any fresh initiatives to address the crisis would distract from full implementation of existing efforts, he cautioned.

The representative of the United States called upon the Russian Federation to direct Ukrainian separatists to respect the ceasefire and end restrictions on the movements and activities of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, and for unrestricted access to enable the monitors to fulfil their mandated tasks.

With speakers praising ongoing cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations, such as the OSCE, the United Kingdom’s representative questioned whether the situation in Ukraine had made any turn for the better over the past year.

Ukraine’s representative said it was unfortunate that the Russian Federation had not reciprocated steps towards implementation of the Minsk Agreements, stressing that his own country stood ready to move forward on all aspects.

Other speakers today included representatives of France, Japan, Uruguay, Egypt, Malaysia, Angola, New Zealand, China, Senegal, Spain and Venezuela.

Taking the floor a second time in response to statements, were the representative of the Russian Federation, United States and Ukraine.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 12:06 p.m.

Briefing

FRANK-WALTER STEINMEIER, Foreign Minister of Germany and Chair-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), said common security was being challenged in fundamental ways by conflicts in Ukraine, the Middle East and northern Africa, as well as by mass migration to Europe.  The vision of a Europe “whole and free” had not yet materialized and yet the principles of international law were coming under growing pressure, he noted, adding that there was need for a realistic look at the situation.

“We are not reliving the cold war and we shouldn’t talk as if we were,” he emphasized, pointing out that today’s conflicts were more complex and made yesterday’s arguments wrong and counter-productive.  Such principles as territorial integrity and sovereign equality of nations remained fundamental and strong multilateral organizations were needed to safeguard them, he said, expressing the firm hope that the OCSE and the United Nations would provide the tools to shape the future of a rules-based international order.

Turning to the situation in Ukraine, he expressed deep concern about ceasefire violations and restrictions on access for the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission there.  Emphasizing that implementation of the Minsk Agreements was the only way towards a sustainable political solution, he said that both sides, present in the Council, were called upon to live up to their responsibilities.  As for so-called “frozen conflict”, every effort must be made to stabilize ceasefires and rebuild trust.  In Nagorno-Karabakh, intensified efforts were needed to reduce casualties and find a lasting solution, while in Georgia there had been at least some progress on practical cooperation.

Looking at Ukraine, the Russian Federation and Turkey, there was a high risk of military incidents involving OSCE member States, he warned, emphasizing the importance of confidence- and security-building measures.  In that regard, the conflict in Ukraine had demonstrated the need for a substantial update of the Vienna Document, difficult as that might be, he said.  There was also need for adherence to the longer-term vision of renewed arms control and cooperative security in Europe.  Recognizing the shared task of the OSCE and the United Nations of preventing armed conflict, he said every effort must be made to strengthen the OSCE’s capabilities in such areas as early warning to crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation.

He went on to underline the need to address the role of women in conflict management, and to ensure their protection in violent conflicts.  As for migration, an area in which the OSCE had much expertise, it should figure more prominently on the international agenda.  The fight against discrimination, racism, xenophobia and intolerance must be intensified, including in Germany, he emphasized.  While the OSCE was unique, its principles could provide hope to other regions, including the Middle East.  While no security architecture could be transferred from one region to another, experiences could perhaps be useful, he pointed out, adding that they could encourage parties in the Middle East to explore new paths to political settlements.

Statements

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), describing the invasion of Ukraine as one of the most serious breaches of OSCE principles since the signing of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, said that, since that question had dominated the organization’s agenda for more than two years, his country stood ready to help.  Stressing the key role of OSCE efforts to resolve the crisis, he emphasized that the Normandy format must be followed for the full application of the Minsk Agreement.  France was deeply concerned by the ongoing violations of the ceasefire, he said, calling upon all concerned parties to abide by the accord.

MOTOHIDE YOSHIKAWA (Japan), noting that his country was one of the OSCE’s first partners, said it would not accept any unilateral attempt to change the status quo in regard to the situation in Ukraine.  The country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected, he said, stressing the critical role played by the OSCE mission there.  To support Ukraine, Japan had provided €2 million, as well as regional experts.  As for the ceasefire violations, Japan urged all parties to comply with the Minsk Agreement.

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) said his delegation was fully aware of the key role played by the OSCE, and expressed hope that it would continue to support peace processes in the region.  Uruguay commended the organization’s values and principles, as well as its contributions on the ground, he said, calling upon the Council to improve cooperation between the United Nations and OSCE.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt), emphasizing the importance of cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations, said that the OSCE’s role should complement that of the world body.  There was a close link between the Mediterranean region and the European continent and there must be more dialogue among their religions and civilizations, he said, adding that OSCE efforts to cooperate with other regional organizations were appreciated.  With regard to Ukraine, he stressed the importance of implementing the ceasefire and addressing the humanitarian situation, calling upon all parties to honour their Minsk commitments.  Underlining the need for greater cooperation between the OSCE and the United Nations in fighting Islamophobia in Europe, he said that countering violent extremism and terrorism called for joint efforts among all concerned, through a comprehensive global approach with cultural and economic components.

RAMLAN BIN IBRAHIM (Malaysia) said that the OSCE’s inclusive and cooperative nature was its key strength in responding to various security threats and challenges.  Malaysia placed great value on its contributions and commended its holistic approach in dealing with wide-ranging security challenges, including conflict prevention, conflict management, combating terrorism, arms control and ensuring respect for human rights.  While acknowledging the significant progress made in Ukraine relating to military de-escalation and the withdrawal of weapons, he said his delegation was deeply concerned that the agreed ceasefire remained fragile and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission still did not have full access to the entire conflict zone, particularly the rebel-held areas.  Malaysia also hoped that an increased focus on dialogue, confidence-building measures and mediation would provide a new impetus towards resolving the so-called frozen conflicts in Central Asia, Southern Caucuses and the Republic of Moldova.

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom), while emphasizing that it was incumbent upon the United Nations and the OSCE to work together, questioned whether the situation in eastern Ukraine had really changed for the better in the year since the last OSCE briefing to the Council.  OSCE monitors had been subjected to unacceptable aggression and a resolution to a crisis that had cost more than 9,000 lives and left 3 million needing humanitarian assistance seemed no closer.  Emphasizing that the monitoring mission must be able to carry out its mandate in full, with access to all of Ukraine, he said all illegally detained Ukrainian prisoners must be released and a truly sustainable ceasefire put in place.  The Russian Federation must demonstrate political will, withdraw its military forces and exert its influence over the separatists.  The onus was on that country to demonstrate a clear commitment to act, he stressed, adding that its actions in Ukraine had cast a shadow over security and confidence-building across OSCE member States.

ISMAEL ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) commended the Chair’s priority of strengthening the OSCE’s capacities in relation to all aspects of conflict, noting that it addressed fundamental international concerns.  Since its creation, the OSCE’s agenda effectively aligned with the three pillars of the United Nations — human rights, peace and security, and development.  Angola supported the organization’s significant role in fighting terrorism, radicalism and drug trafficking, he said, calling for improved dialogue between the Security Council and the OSCE.

CAROLYN SCHWALGER (New Zealand) said her country was a strong advocate of the positive role that regional organizations played in addressing conflict.  They had been highly effective in the Asia-Pacific region and had worked to support the United Nations in preventing conflict and restoring stability.  Noting that the OSCE was making important efforts to reduce tensions and engage parties in dialogue, she welcomed its programmes aimed at countering threats to security, such as violent extremism, radicalization and human trafficking.  The OSCE’s efforts to monitor and verify compliance with the terms of the Minsk Agreements were notable, particularly since the accords remained the best path to a durable peace, she said, commending OSCE monitors for working under challenging security circumstances.  New Zealand called upon all parties to ensure their safety and security at all times, she emphasized.

LIU JIEYI (China), commending the OSCE’s efforts in maintaining regional peace and security, expressed hope that it would continue to play its key role in Europe.  He emphasized the need for the Security Council to deepen cooperation with regional organizations, and for their respective efforts to complement each other.  On Ukraine, he acknowledged the OSCE’s efforts and called upon all sides to take into account the legitimate concerns of all parties involved.  To achieve a lasting political solution, the international community must follow the Normandy format and comply with the Minsk Agreements, he stressed.

VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation) noted that the OSCE was entering its fifth decade with good experiences, but the ideals at its heart had not been universally upheld.  Sometimes there was an impression that geopolitical egotism had taken the upper hand, he said, asking who would have imagined a violent coup d’état in the heart of Europe, as had taken place in Ukraine.  The people of Crimea had opted freely to join the Russian Federation, he emphasized.  The current format for cooperation between the United Nations and the OSCE with regard to Ukraine was sufficient, he said, warning that it would be dangerous to water down existing mechanisms because new initiatives would distract from full implementation of the Normandy format.  The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission was the only mechanism that could work with all sides in the conflict, and it must carry out its activities in a manner equal to all aides, he said, adding that its staff had been regularly visiting both sides of the border and had put no suspicious evidence in their reports.

GORGUI CISS (Senegal), noting the multiple challenges facing the OSCE, welcomed its efforts to renew dialogue, re-establish confidence and restore security.  In that regard, the extension of the Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine and the observer missions in Gukovo and Donetsk were welcome.  The conflict in Nagorno-Karabkh must remain at the heart of the OSCE’s efforts, with a view to convening a conference that would provide the foundation for a peaceful negotiated solution, in line with Council resolutions, he said, adding that efforts must also be intensified in respect of Georgia and Transnistria.

VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) expressed his country’s support for the priorities of the German Chairmanship in 2016, and commended its focus on practical responses to the grave threats to security in the OSCE area.  He said that, despite Ukraine’s efforts, the situation in the Donbas region remained fragile and prone to escalation.  It was unfortunate that steps towards implementation of the Minsk Agreements had not been reciprocated by the Russian Federation, he said, emphasizing that Ukraine stood ready to implement the accords fully and move forward on all aspects, including the holding of local elections, in accordance with national legislation and OSCE standards.  Furthermore, constitutional reform and decentralization in Ukraine would provide elected representatives with the requisite accountability, powers and responsibilities, he said.  It would be possible to move forward on a solid security footing, including a comprehensive and sustainable ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons.

FRANCISCO JAVIER GASSO MATOSES (Spain) expressed hope that the German Chairmanship would bring a solution to some of the region’s ongoing conflicts.  Spain shared fully and supported the OSCE’S objective of “renewing dialogue, rebuilding trust and restoring security”, as did the international community.  On Ukraine, he said all parties must allow the monitoring mission to carry out its mandate under the Normandy format for full implementation of the Minsk Agreements.

DAVID PRESSMAN (United States) said the OSCE’s principles faced some serious challenges, with some States attempting to exert a sphere of influence amid proliferating transnational threats.  Full implementation of the Minsk Agreements was critical, he emphasized, adding that the increasing violence in eastern Ukraine was of grave concern.  Reports indicated that the number of ceasefire violations was on the rise, and heavy weapons were being moved to areas deemed off-limits under the Minsk Agreements.  More than a year since the signing of the accords, Russian-backed separatists refused to allow OSCE monitors full access to areas critical for monitoring and assessment, he noted.  Restrictions on its movements went hand in hand with weapons violations, as separatists continued to make direct threats against its members.  Calling upon the Russian Federation to direct the separatists to respect the ceasefire and end restrictions on the movements and activities of the monitors, he also called for unrestricted access to enable them to fulfil their mandated tasks.  As for other situations, the United States fully supported Georgia’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, he said.  There was an immediate need for a coordinated response to the refugee crisis in the OSCE region and beyond, and the organization’s role in supporting global efforts to address weapons proliferation was critical.  The OSCE’s fundamental commitments provided clarity and continuity for its member countries to promote security throughout the region, he said.

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela), Council President for February, spoke in his national capacity, expressing his delegation’s support for the OSCE’s efforts to promote stability and peace under the Helsinki Agreement.  It had promoted stronger relations among its member countries through dialogue, he noted.  Venezuela supported the Minsk Agreements and encouraged the parties to work towards a lasting peace, he said, emphasizing that a durable ceasefire must be fully implemented.  Noting that the situation in the Middle East had impacted security and stability in Europe, he said conflict had created a difficult humanitarian situation marked by a desperate outflow of refugees towards the continent.  In that regard, the OSCE could play a key role in supporting the most affected countries by addressing the deep-rooted causes of the crisis, he said, emphasizing that respect for human rights was fundamental to fighting discrimination, racism and xenophobia.  Venezuela called for strengthening cooperation between the United Nations and the OSCE, which would represent a significant step forward for international peace and security.

Mr. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) took the floor a second time and warned Council members against “spheres of influence”.  Noting that the Ukrainian armed forces had taken over a neutral place, in complete contravention of the Minsk Agreements, he asked:  “When will Ukraine fulfil the terms of the Agreements?”

Mr. PRESSMAN (United States), also taking the floor again, said that his delegation and the Russian Federation could not agree on the basic facts.  The Russian Federation had armed the separatists and violated the principles of the United Nations Charter, he emphasized.

Mr. YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said the Russian Federation had built up, supplied and maintained an army against his country in the past two years.  “Such weapons are not falling from space,” he stressed.

Mr. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) underlined that the crisis must be resolved politically, and that Ukraine must comply fully with the Agreements.

Mr. STEINMEIER, responding to the statements by Council members, said the OSCE’s priority was to renew dialogue, rebuild trust and restore security.  He underlined the importance of using available tools to improve the security situation in Europe.

For information media. Not an official record.