Statement delivered by Gerard van Bohemen, Permanent Representative to the United Nations, 15 December 2015.

I would like to thank Deputy Secretary-General Eliasson, Mr. Šimonović, Mr. Ging and Ambassador Apakan for their briefings today. I also welcome the participation of the Foreign Ministers of Ukraine and Lithuania in this meeting.

In resolution 2202 (2015), the Council unanimously called on all parties to implement the package of measures for the implementation of the Minsk agreements, which was to have been completed by the end of this year, less than 20 days from now. We are very concerned at the slow progress, and we urge renewed efforts to ensure full compliance with the commitments under the agreements, which, as others have noted, offer the best chance for a durable peace.

As the briefers have outlined today, the continuing presence of foreign fighters and the flow of weapons and ammunition into the separatist-controlled areas make the renewal of hostilities a constant possibility. New Zealand calls on all the parties to the conflict to deliver on their commitments to a genuine and sustained ceasefire and to the verified withdrawal of proscribed weapons.

On the political track, a number of key outstanding elements of the Minsk process still need to be resolved. We urge the parties to reach agreement on the modalities for free and fair elections in the conflict areas, in accordance with Ukrainian law and with Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) standards, and for elections to be monitored by the OSCE. The restoration of lasting peace to the region requires the restoration of Ukraine’s control over its border with Russia. In order for that to occur, the parties will need to reach agreement on, and implement, all of the political elements of the Minsk agreements.

All parties to the conflict agreed that the OSCE would play a special role in monitoring and verifying compliance with the Minsk agreements. Yet the OSCE continues daily to report significant restrictions on its access throughout eastern Ukraine. The separatists must comply with all the obligations undertaken in Minsk, including by ensuring that OSCE monitors are able to carry out their work effectively and safely. We call on Russia to use its considerable influence over the separatists to ensure such compliance.

The twelfth report on the human rights situation in Ukraine by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights records a troubling list of human rights abuses in eastern Ukraine and Crimea, including a lack of protection and justice for victims, impunity for perpetrators on both sides and a prevailing climate of fear in the separatist-controlled territories. We call for urgent independent oversight of places of detention and for investigation and accountability for all violations of human rights. It is clear that the humanitarian problems are large, with millions of affected people in the conflict area. As we have heard today, the situation is already dire in some areas. With the further onset of winter, the already difficult lives of civilians affected by conflict in Ukraine will become even more perilous.

As we have also heard, critical infrastructure has been damaged in the conflict and is in need of repair. Many are without adequate shelter owing to the shelling of residential areas. Secure access to food has become increasingly challenging. Landmines and unexploded ordnance are posing a critical risk to civilians, thereby underscoring the need for mine clearance and mine awareness on both sides of the conflict line.

The difficult situation facing civilians has been greatly exacerbated by the restrictions imposed on humanitarian actors in recent months, such as purported registration requirements enforced by the separatists. We call on all parties to do everything within their power to ensure that humanitarian assistance can freely reach those who need it in Ukraine.

The Council has previously determined to remain seized of the situation in Ukraine. Until fundamental issues have been resolved, it is right that the Council continues to monitor the situation very closely.