Ukraine - 8726th Security Council Meeting

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18-Feb-2020 02:14:25
Upcoming period will be crucial to resolution of conflict in Ukraine, international officials tell Security Council.

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The coming months will be crucial to settling the conflict in eastern Ukraine through renewed political will, despite the average daily occurrence of more than 500 ceasefire violations and violent flare-ups, senior international officials told the Security Council today.

Citing today’s major incident in Donbas involving more than 2,500 explosions, Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacekeeping Affairs, stated: “The much-needed and long-awaited peace in eastern Ukraine can be achieved if there is sufficient political will, good-faith negotiations and concrete support for efforts to silence the guns.”

She also expressed hope that renewed commitments made in December 2019 by the leaders of the “Normandy Four” (France, Germany, Russian Federation, Ukraine) will result in concrete progress on the ground. Indeed, the conflict continues to exact an unacceptable humanitarian toll while destabilizing overall peace and security, she said, pointing out that more than 3.4 million people living on the line of contact require humanitarian assistance, as well as protection.

With the 2019 humanitarian response plan having been severely underfunded, the 2020 plan will require $158 million, with the goal of reaching 2 million people, she continued. As such, the Council must encourage and fully support the positive momentum and commitment of the Normandy Four and the Trilateral Contact Group to address the conflict with renewed impetus and a sense of urgency, followed by measures to restore trust and enable tangible improvement of the situation along the contact line.

Heidi Grau, Special Representative of the Organization for Security and Co‑operation in Europe (OSCE) Chairperson-in-Office, said that, despite today’s flare-up of violence in Donbas and violations of the 2015 Minsk Agreements, OSCE efforts included the disengagement of forces and hardware in three pilot areas, the exchange of prisoners, agreements relating to local elections in areas not controlled by the Government of Ukraine and an audit of Voda Donbasa, the company supplying water in Donetsk.

Halit Çevik, Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, said that, although the frequency of ceasefire violations has dropped, the daily average remains at 520, as violations involving weapons observed across withdrawal lines persist. “What lies ahead in the coming months is crucial,” he emphasized. “There is an urgency to maintain the momentum.”

Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs described this morning’s attack on Ukrainian forces, carried out by Russian occupation forces with the use of Minsk-proscribed weapons, as a cynical attempt to disrupt the peace process in Donbas. “It is a war, the only ongoing war in Europe,” he said, emphasizing that it is waged by Russian troops and their mercenaries, using weapons and ammunition supplied by Moscow. Urging the Russian Federation to grant humanitarian agencies unfettered access to detainees, and allow them to search for missing persons, he said that a full and comprehensive ceasefire, as well as unhindered OSCE access to the entire occupied territory would facilitate the peace process. In the coming days, the General Assembly will consider its agenda item “Situation in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine”, he said, stressing that the liberation of Ukrainian territory will not be complete until the last Russian soldier is gone.

However, the Russian Federation’s representative said there was an attempt to create a parallel political reality, while emphasizing that the parties to the conflict are not the Russian Federation and Ukraine, but the regions of Donetsk and Donbas. Indeed, the Minsk Agreements are the sole real hope for peace and for Ukraine to rebuild trust with Donbas after referring to its residents as separatists in their own land. Calling for unconditional compliance with measures reached under the Normandy format, he said elections in that region can only occur in a climate of trust, when the people whom Kyiv called separatists are not under threat.

Estonia’s representative suggested the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping mission, recalling that the Russian Federation blocked Ukraine’s request that the Security Council mandate such an operation.

The representative of the United States noted that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has taken steps to implement the Minsk Agreements, but the Russian Federation has not demonstrated the same spirit, even by honouring the ceasefire. Indeed, that country continues to take aggressive actions, she added, calling upon Moscow to meet its commitment to the accords and to stabilizing the situation in the conflict areas. She went on to emphasize that the United States does not recognize the annexation of Crimea, urging the Russian Federation to end its aggressive actions and respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

France’s representative described the Ukraine conflict as Europe’s most deadly ordeal in the six years since it began. Reaffirming the importance of granting the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access to civilians, he said they are the main victims of one of gravest humanitarian crises in a decade, pointing out that 3.4 million of them rely on humanitarian assistance.

Germany’s representative cited several violations linked to the Russian Federation, including repeated restrictions on the freedom of movement and the issuance of Russian passports to more than 200,000 people living in the area of concern.

Belgium’s representative, describing the Minsk Agreements as a “dead letter” five years after it was signed, emphasized, however, that it remains indispensable to a lasting ceasefire. Expressing alarm over recent flare-ups, she called upon the parties, especially the Russian Federation, to respect the Special Monitoring Mission and grant it full access to the entire territory of Ukraine.

The Dominican Republic’s representative hailed international efforts — including those of the Quartet, as well as France and Germany, in particular — to facilitate the removal of mines.

Indonesia’s representative expressed his delegation’s opposition to the annexation of any sovereign country or territory, describing such an action as a clear violation of the Charter of the United Nations and international law.

Also speaking were representatives of the United Kingdom, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, South Africa, China, Tunisia, Niger and Viet Nam.

The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 5:20 p.m.

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