Willkommen auf den Seiten des Auswärtigen Amts
Ambassador Ernst Reichel at the 95th Rose-Roth Seminar by NATO Parliamentary Assembly in cooperation with the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine “Towards a Secure and Stable Ukraine and Black Sea Region”, Kyiv, Ukraine 3-5 July 2017
“As somebody who feels closely attached to NATO, I feel honored and pleased to have been invited to speak here today. But I suppose I was not invited because of the time I worked at NATO, but because I represent a country that is more involved than most in the ongoing effort to overcome or at least regulate the conflict in the Donbas. There is no way around it: We have no reason at all to be satisfied. This is despite the fact that in comparison to 2014, military activity is still of lower intensity.
Also the humanitarian situation is less dramatic than 2014, but still very bad, and no reason for complacency. And there is no complacency, and no disengagement, speaking for Germany and France in the Normandy Group, or for the OSCE in the Minsk Trilateral Contact Group. And the international community is still united behind the sanctions imposed on Russia.
The most obvious improvement would be a sustained ceasefire, the withdrawal of heavy weapons, the exchange of prisoners,–these points are part of the Minsk agreements or subsequent agreements, and were reconfirmed many times. But there is a clear lack of implementation. Numerous ceasefires have been agreed and then invariably been broken. SMM, which has the task to oversee the security situation, is subject to increasing threats and harassments, by the separatist side. One US member was killed in a mine blast, a German lady wounded.
There are two levels of responsibility here: The one is the responsibility for beginning the conflict. Just recently Foreign Minister Lavrov has spoken of the Russian decision to “join the fight” in Donbas and Syria, and then unspecifically sought the explanation in the respective countries.
The other is the responsibility for the continuationof the fighting. As there have been no notable military gains for either side, one wonders why the loss of life is continuing. In other words, what have the two sides done to contribute to a ceasefire, to the withdrawal of heavy weapons?
Another worrying development is the deepening of dividing lines. In the Minsk agreements, the sides committed to restoring and maintaining socio-economic ties. An Action Plan adopted by the Government in January proposes a series of suitable measures. But at the same time, cross-contact line links are being severed even further. The recognition of separatists’ documents by Russia, the de facto expropriation of Ukrainian enterprises and the mutual trade blockade constitute an additional obstacle for the negotiations, but also for the economy. Turning back the clock will not be an easy task.
But describing the various negative developments and their dangers is of course not sufficient, and we probably agree on that. Maybe even more relevant is to seek an answer to the question: What do we do about it?
The Minsk agreements outline a series of measures that ultimately lead to the restoration of international law in Eastern Ukraine, the withdrawal of foreign troops, Ukrainian control over the state border and the territory. They bear Russia’s signature.
It is popular nowadays to consider Minsk disadvantageous and obsolete, or to want to take decisions that contradict Minsk. My answer to that is: If someone has a better idea than Minsk, it is welcome, under one condition: that the idea is not only new, but also realistic, and leads to the return of the Donbas. If one is of the opinion that the reason for the non-implementation of Minsk is the lack of political will on the Russian side, then the alternative proposal would have to have better chances to create such political will in Moscow.
Simply talking down Minsk without a better alternative, however, is short-sighted and destructive. Such talk does not improve the military or the humanitarian situation. What it does, in tendency, is devaluate the agreement that foresees the withdrawal of all foreign troops, and the reestablishment of Ukrainian control over the State border with Russia. What it also does is to devaluate the agreement the more important Russia sanctions are attached to. What is needed, in my view, is not the replacement, but the reinvigoration of Minsk. If the conditions are not right for that now, then let’s keep Minsk alive until the conditions are better. But let’s not create additional obstacles to the implementation of Minsk.”