Strong United Nations Support Urged for Mission Whose Duties ‘Come Close’ to Those of Peacekeeping
There had been a significant reduction of hostilities in Ukraine, another release of detainees, and the beginning of the withdrawal of heavy equipment from the line of separation in accordance with the Minsk accords, senior officials of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) told the Security Council today, cautioning, however, that those developments were only the beginning of a process.
“We seem to be at a crossroads where we are facing the risk of a further escalation of the conflict or where common sense, responsibility and humanity shall prevail,” Heidi Tagliavini, Chair of the OSCE’s Trilateral Contact Group, told the 15-member body via video-conference from Kyiv. (The Trilateral Contact Group is made up of the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the OSCE.)
Those developments were encouraging signs, she said, expressing hope that they would prove to be sustainable and be followed by further positive developments. If not, there were would be a negative spiral leading towards more deaths, more destruction, more displacements, and, almost certainly, a more serious crisis entailing the risk of a larger war, which was unacceptable.
A sustainable ceasefire and continued de-escalation, including the withdrawal of heavy military equipment, were indispensable to any further progress on the way towards a peaceful settlement, she said, adding that “until the guns fall silent there will be no hope for stabilizing the situation, let alone for peace.”
Welcoming the active international engagement through the Normandy format, she said the world was still far from stabilizing the situation and achieving a peaceful settlement. But recent efforts had laid a pattern and the road had been established.
The Trilateral Contact Group sought to build bridges and provide opportunities to implement the agreements and to work out a peaceful solution. Should the ceasefire hold, and de-escalation continue, the Contact Group stood ready for the appropriate steps for the full implementation of the Minsk agreements.
The delivery of humanitarian aid to the conflict area should be one of the priorities and a mutually acceptable framework should be established, she went on. An agreement on despatching a Needs Assessment Mission to the region, representing internationally recognized organizations and relevant United Nations agencies, would be most helpful.
Also speaking from Kyiv was Ertuğrul Apakan, Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, who said that, over the past two days, there had been indications that both sides were now taking steps to comply with their responsibilities under the Minsk package.
He said that OSCE monitors had begun overseeing the movement of heavy weapons away from the line of contact on several instances, although they were not able to establish the origin or final places for storage. “However it is only the beginning of a process and we encourage the sides to take more steps in this direction”.
The OSCE had been given the task of facilitating, monitoring and verifying the withdrawal of heavy weapons from a defined security zone. In order to fulfil that role, it needed improved baseline information. Upon the mission’s request, the parties had provided answers, but the information received was not sufficient.
The Special Monitoring Mission had been watching the movement of heavy weapons for five months, he said, but there was a clear distinction between that activity and being able to verify that those weapons were indeed withdrawn and safely and securely stored. That same requirement for baseline information applied to the monitoring of the withdrawal of foreign armed formations and mercenaries.
The OSCE had 451 monitors on a civilian mission with tasks that came close to peacekeeping. Furthermore, operations would take place in and around the entire defined security zone, which comprised approximately 50,000 square kilometres. That would necessitate new operational concepts and processes, including an expansion of the mission’s technological capacity and corresponding expert staff.
The monitors’ work should be complemented by satellite imagery, relocation of a larger number of unmanned aerial vehicles and additional image gathering technology, which would require strong support and close cooperation with the United Nations.
The Minsk accords also gave hope for the improvement of the humanitarian situation, he said, adding that work related to human rights, gender and dialogue would help to consolidate the basis for implementing the political dimensions. A full and unconditional ceasefire remained the foundation for the further implementation of the accords.
Before concluding the meeting, the representative of China, Council President for the month of February, thanked members and staff for their support in facilitating business during a “busy month”. He offered best wishes to the delegation of France, which would assume the presidency in March.
The meeting began at 10:07 a.m. and ended at 10:30 a.m.