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OSCE chief says situation in eastern Ukraine not hopeless

March 01, 2017, 16:01 UTC+3 UNITED NATIONS

Efforts to resolve the conflict have not yielded tangible results to date, but the OSCE continues to urge the parties to maintain dialogue, the organization's head said

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An elderly woman in a street of the village of Kominternovo after a shelling attack

An elderly woman in a street of the village of Kominternovo after a shelling attack

© Viktor Drachev/TASS

UNITED NATIONS, March 1. /TASS/. The situation in eastern Ukraine is a matter of profound concern, but it is not hopeless despite all difficulties with honoring the ceasefire and a complete absence of trust between Kiev and people’s militias, Lamberto Zannier, Secretary General of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), told TASS.

He noted that efforts to resolve the conflict have not yielded tangible results to date, but the OSCE continues to urge the parties to maintain dialogue. "It is very tough, I have to acknowledge that, but I don’t think it’s hopeless. We need to keep working. There is a strong need for a political process on a high level," Zannier said.

According to the OSCE secretary general, the "Normandy format" (Germany, Russia, Ukraine, France) offers good opportunities for dialogue involving heads of all states concerned. "At the end of the day it will be their initiative that can help us unblock this conflict," Zannier emphasized, adding that it is necessary "to avoid moving it in the direction of yet another frozen conflict."

Risk of new exacerbation

According to Zannier, the ceasefire announced in February has not been consolidated yet, even though the number of breaches is decreasing. He noted that security situation along with the stumbling blocks created by the parties to the conflict make it difficult for OSCE observers to effectively monitor the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the line of engagement. "That’s another concern, because there is a potential for these flare-ups as we’ve seen at the beginning of the month to occur again," he said, adding that there is a feeling that the parties are ready to resume hostilities at any moment.

The OSCE head noted that the committees on political and security issues operating within the Contact Group on the settlement in eastern Ukraine have come up with some promising ideas. "But when it comes to (their) implementation, there is always a problem of some kind. It is difficult to see a chance for a rapid progress," he added.

Recognition of DPR, LPR documents

According to the OSCE secretary general, Russia’s decision to recognize documents issued in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics (DPR, LPR) could create additional difficulties for the implementation of the Minsk agreements.

"Russia’s recognition of the documents implies a kind of recognition of the authorities that issue the documents. And this might become an additional problem now in terms of Minsk implementation," he emphasized. Explaining his point of view, Zannier noted that the leaders of the two self-proclaimed republics will feel more confident, including at the talks with Kiev within the Contact Group, "because they would feel emboldened, recognized. "

He added that "the status issue was always a very delicate issue in the context of the Contact Group." "The Ukrainians perceive them as not a state actor, as not a full interlocutor. For them the full interlocutor is the Russian Federation and the others. And now this can affect this delicate balance," Zannier said.

On February 18, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree ‘On recognition in the Russian Federation of the documents and license plates of vehicles issued to Ukraine’s citizens and stateless individuals who permanently reside in certain districts of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions.’ Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov explained that "the decree in no way runs counter to international law or violates international law." He added that the decision was made "on humanitarian grounds."

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