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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

REMARKS ON UKRAINE BY AMBASSADOR PRESSMAN

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Ambassador David Pressman
Alternate Representative to the UN for Special Political Affairs
New York, NY
February 24, 2015
AS DELIVERED

Thank you, Mr. President. I would like to welcome the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Minister Dacic, to the Security Council and thank you for your briefing on OSCE activities under Serbia’s leadership. The partnership between the OSCE and the United Nations is critically important and we welcome the opportunity to hear about the OSCE's priorities.

Mr. President, the OSCE has taken on a very difficult and very important set of responsibilities in Ukraine, and we strongly endorse the Chairman-in-Office’s continued focus on brokering peace in Ukraine and serving as an impartial observer to the September 2014 agreements and February 2015 implementation package signed in Minsk. Of course, OSCE engagement and focus cannot alone turn commitments on the many papers that have been signed in Minsk into tangible realities on the ground, though the OSCE can uniquely shed light on those who undermine the path to peace. So it should come as no surprise that – in addition to repeated attacks on Ukrainian positions well past the agreed line of contact, repeated failure to withdraw foreign fighters and military equipment, and repeated failure to pull back heavy weaponry – Russian-backed separatists have also repeatedly frustrated the access of OSCE observers to the very places they have pledged to ensure such access.

This must end. It is imperative that OSCE observers be allowed to operate safely and be granted unfettered access to all areas in order to effectively monitor the terms of the ceasefire and the subsequent withdrawal of heavy weaponry, foreign troops, and mercenaries in accordance with the Minsk agreements and Security Council Resolution 2202, which we just adopted last week.

Under the terms of the Minsk Memorandum, OSCE observers are supposed to be allowed to monitor and verify the ceasefire, monitor and verify security zones in the border regions of Ukraine and the Russian Federation. Under the terms of the Minsk Protocol, OSCE observers are supposed to be allowed to monitor the ceasefire, monitor the withdrawal of heavy weapons, and monitor the withdrawal of all foreign militarized formations, military equipment, militants and mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine. Under the terms of the Minsk Implementation Package, OSCE observers are supposed to facilitate the withdrawal of heavy weapons and monitor and verify the ceasefire regime and withdrawal of heavy weapons, from day one.

And, yet, six months after the signing of the Minsk Memorandum and Protocol and almost two weeks after the signing of the Minsk Implementation Package, OSCE observers have yet to receive full access from the separatists to all areas to monitor and verify the ceasefire, the withdrawal of heavy weapons and foreign fighters, or security along the border.

Even today, after laying ruthless and deadly siege to the city of Debaltseve last week, approximately 30 to 40 kilometers beyond lines established by the September Minsk Agreements, separatists have yet to allow the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission unrestricted and unfettered access to that city to observe the situation on the ground. So if we are serious about improving cooperation between regional organizations and the United Nations, let’s start with this: Let’s recognize that the work of the OSCE is critical to making the agreed ceasefire and any effort at de-escalation stick, as agreed by all 57 OSCE participating States. And let’s take whatever action is necessary to ensure that all actors uphold their commitment to provide unfettered access to the OSCE in eastern Ukraine, and that all parties respect the neutrality of its mission and its monitors.

Protecting their access is important because the reports of the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine have been a key source for timely and impartial information on the situation in the Donbas area, and notably, on incidents like the downing of the MH17 plane; the appearance of weapons, troops, and support flowing from Russia into Ukraine; and the shelling of civilian targets in eastern Ukraine.

Mr. Chairman, we commend the OSCE’s efforts thus far and encourage your continued dedication to monitoring the ceasefire and ensuring all commitments made in Minsk are upheld, despite the very difficult conditions in which the mission works. You have the full backing of the United States and with the adoption of Resolution 2202, the endorsement of the United Nations Security Council to implement the Minsk Agreements.

Mr. President, the United States strongly endorses the Chairman-in-Office’s focus on bolstering OSCE field missions and independent institutions, like the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the High Commissioner for National Minorities, and the Representative on Freedom of the Media. The OSCE’s field missions contribute to our collective respect for human rights, and the institutionalization of rule of law.

We also welcome the passage by the OSCE Ministerial Council in December of 2014 of two decisions on Countering the Phenomenon of Foreign Fighters and Countering Kidnapping for Ransom. We support your efforts as Chairperson-in-Office to encourage implementation of these important decisions and to continue the work of OSCE field missions in the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Balkans on counterterrorism issues, including countering violent extremism. We welcome more OSCE awareness-raising and capacity building efforts, which promote a multi-dimensional approach to countering violent extremism, and we encourage collaboration amongst stakeholders, particularly in the areas of youth/civil society, gender, community-policing, and human rights compliant approaches to addressing terrorism and violent extremism. We also thank the Chairman-in-Office for planning to host a regional “expert-level” summit in June to follow-up on all of these efforts.

Mr. President, lastly but importantly, in recent months, we have seen what should be an alarming display of anti-Semitism in Europe. From the shootings at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, to the horrific anti-Semitic attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris, to the recent wide scale desecration of a Jewish cemetery. Just as anti-Semitism in Europe is rising, so too, must our will to combat it and defeat it. For any organization that has a role in the maintenance of security and peace, it must also confront the kind of hate that undermines both – and anti-Semitism, as history has shown time and time again, is certainly that. As such, it is all the more important that the OSCE has undertaken the important work that it has to address anti-Semitism and intolerance, including its Declaration to Enhance Efforts to Combat Anti-Semitism adopted at the Basel Ministerial as a follow-up to the commemoration in November of the 10th anniversary of the OSCE Anti-Semitism Conference in Berlin. And yet, despite all that has been unfolding across Europe, at this 10-year anniversary meeting of the historic inaugural session, a third fewer countries showed up at the 2014 conference.

Of course, meetings and declarations will never alone crush hate, but they are important to focus our collective efforts, galvanize our collective will, and force our collective action.

Mr. Chair, the United States urges you to continue the OSCE’s critical work on this issue and we encourage OSCE participating States to help uphold the commitments enshrined in the Declaration.

The United States, as an active member of the OSCE, remains fully committed to the important work of the organization. A strong OSCE is a good partner for the United Nations, and it is a good partner in our cause of championing fairness, security, justice, and peace.

Thank you, Mr. President.