Germany’s foreign minister said Monday (29 February) he was deeply concerned by continued violations of the ceasefire in Ukraine and restrictions imposed on monitors overseeing the truce in the nearly two-year war.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the UN Security Council that the Minsk agreement signed a year ago was “the only way towards a sustainable political solution” to end the conflict in Ukraine.
The foreign minister was reporting to the council as this year’s chair of the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe. Germany and France are also leading international efforts to restore peace in Ukraine.
Citing progress in deescalating the crisis in Ukraine, Steinmeier praised the OSCE’s monitoring mission for those gains.
“However, we remain deeply concerned over the continuing violations of the ceasefire and the restriction of access for the SMM,” the special monitoring mission, he said.
About 700 international observers have been deployed in Ukraine, but they are regularly denied access to the Russian-Ukrainian border area where Kiev says Russian troops and military hardware are sent to separatist fighters.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the OSCE monitors should “pay more attention to the territory under the control of the Ukrainian army” to ensure their activities are “equal on both sides”.
Ukraine’s ambassador said the situation in east Ukraine “remains fragile and prone to escalation” and accused Russia of failing to uphold its commitments under the Minsk agreement.
Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko said deploying an international police force under OSCE auspices could help bolster security.
The war in east Ukraine has killed at least 9,000 people and driven more than 1.5 million from their homes.
Ukraine has accused Russia of backing separatist rebels fighting Kiev since April 2014, but Moscow denies direct involvement.
Despite tension with Russia over Ukraine, Steinmeier said “we are not reliving the Cold War, and we shouldn’t talk as if we were.”
French Ambassador Francois Delattre said ceasefire violations had been on the rise over past weeks and deplored a “piecemeal” implementation of the Minsk accord on the ground.
A ministerial meeting in Paris on Thursday (3 March) will be “crucial” to decide on the next steps to address the conflict, said Delattre.