Ministry Statements & Speeches:
I thank you Mr President and I thank Under Secretary General Feltman and Mr Hug for their briefings today. It is important to note the positive elements in those briefings, in particular that the ceasefire has generally been holding, if imperfectly and with frequent violations. As they have also told us, there are serious problems on the ground. Every day Ukrainian citizens are being killed, Ukrainian towns besieged and the Ukrainian economy continuing to suffer. All as a consequence of continued aggression by separatist forces, supported by Russia and in violation of the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
As Mr Feltman and Mr Hug have also reminded us, there is a huge toll on the Ukrainian people. Ukraine has now the dubious honour of being in the top ten with internally displaced persons. And worse, humanitarian relief supplies are not getting through. We strongly support Mr Feltman’s call on both the government of Ukraine and the separatist forces to lift the restraints on the access for humanitarian relief.
In February this Council adopted Resolution 2202, endorsing the Minsk Package of Measures and calling on the parties to implement them fully, including an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons.
As we’ve been told, fulfilment of these commitments remains imperfect at best. But at worst, those commitments have been disregarded, and we consider that the Council’s ongoing scrutiny is crucial.
The Package of Measures mandated that the OSCE would support the process of restoring peace, including by monitoring and verifying compliance. Yet the OSCE faces a major obstacle in carrying out this role due to its inability to access conflict areas, when monitors are obstructed from doing their job due to the security risks associated with ceasefire violations or because of restrictions imposed on them.
It is imperative that all sides ensure that the OSCE is granted the access necessary for it to fulfil the role envisaged for it in the Minsk Measures. We call on Russia to use its influence over the separatists to ensure that what was agreed in Minsk is implemented and that the monitors of the OSCE are able to perform their jobs in areas under separatist control.
The important work the monitors are doing on the ground is often difficult and dangerous. We commend them. Their security and safety must continue to be protected.
New Zealand remains very concerned about the situation in eastern Ukraine. We condemn the violence seen this week in Marinka, and reiterate the call for restraint made by the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office. Heavy weapons must be withdrawn from the contact line and a true ceasefire must be respected.
The costs of the conflict in Ukraine continue to mount. A lasting solution is needed. Genuine engagement in the political process laid out in the Minsk Agreements, in particular the Trilateral Contact Group and its Working Groups, will be critical to restoring peace and ending the suffering.
As detailed in the latest report of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Ukrainian people continue to be subject to serious human rights abuses. Until the Package of Measures is implemented, including a comprehensive ceasefire, the biggest losers will be, as always,
the people of Ukraine. But the other loss will be the long history of close friendship between Russia and Ukraine. That cannot be good for either country.