Delivered by Carolyn Schwalger, Deputy Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations , 29 February 2016.

We appreciate the opportunity to hear directly from Minister Steinmeier on the priorities that Germany will pursue as Chairperson-in-Office of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe or OSCE. 

We welcome in particular the Chair’s goal of strengthening the OSCE’s capacities over all aspects of conflict, from early warning and prevention, to ending conflict and restoring lasting peace.  This aligns closely with this Council’s mandate, including areas where it needs to improve, especially in terms of conflict prevention.

New Zealand is a strong advocate of the positive role of regional organisations in addressing conflict.  Experience in our own region has shown that regional organisations can be highly effective and support the United Nations’ efforts to prevent conflict and restore stability.

It is therefore not surprising that on many occasions we have highlighted the need for enhanced cooperation between the United Nations and regional organisations.

The OSCE is no exception.  It has a long history of defusing conflict and promoting human rights and democratic principles.  And it continues to demonstrate its relevance today in a number of conflict zones and across a wide array of security issues, all of which complement this Council’s mandate of maintaining international peace and security. 

With respect to territorial disputes, the OSCE is carrying out important work to reduce tensions and engage parties in dialogue. We also welcome its programmes aimed at countering other threats to security, such as violent extremism, radicalisation and human trafficking. 

The OSCE’s stature and reputation means that it is often the best suited to tackle security challenges or support conflict resolution in its region.  We applaud the OSCE’s continuing and important role in maintaining security in many parts of Europe which have been troubled by conflict.

This is most obviously evident in Ukraine, where the parties have bestowed particular and difficult roles on the OSCE to monitor and verify compliance with the terms of the Minsk Agreements.  

The Minsk Agreements remain the best path to a durable peace.  This was recognised by this Council, which endorsed the Package of Measures for implementing the Minsk Agreements and the OSCE’s important role in monitoring them, when it passed Resolution 2202 last February. 

Yet on almost all counts, implementation by the parties is far from perfect.  Lives continue to be lost; the humanitarian situation is poor and the availability of weapons presents an ongoing risk for resumption of conflict.  The OSCE reports almost daily that its monitors are encountering freedom-of-movement restrictions, mostly in separatist-controlled areas. 

We commend the OSCE monitors for their work under challenging security circumstances, and call on all parties to ensure their safety and security at all times.  OSCE monitors must be allowed to access all areas necessary to verify a ceasefire and the withdrawal of proscribed weapons. We repeat our call on Russia to use its influence over the separatists to ensure that they comply with all aspects of the Minsk Agreements.

The parties to the Minsk Agreements decided that local elections in eastern Ukraine will be held in accordance with OSCE standards and monitored by the OSCE.  These elections will need to take place in a safe and stable environment, which is another reason why security aspects of the Minsk Agreements need to be implemented urgently. 

The UN and the OSCE share many common goals and responsibilities.  We hope that the two organisations can strengthen their cooperation to mutually reinforce their efforts to maintain peace and security.