Ukraine: an end to the crisis is first and foremost the responsibility of the parties [fr]
Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Conseil de sécurité – 12 February 2019
I thank the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Mr. Miroslav Jenča; the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Ms. Ursula Mueller; the Chief Monitor of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, Mr. Ertuğrul Apakan; and the Special Representative of the ОSCE Chairperson-in-Office in Ukraine and in the Trilateral Contact Group, Mr. Martin Sajdik, for their insightful briefings on the crisis that Ukraine has endured for almost five years.
While some may forget it, the Ukrainian conflict remains one of the deadliest on the European continent today. A few striking figures are worth recalling. A total of 12,800 people have died since April 2014 in the Donbas, including 3,300 civilians. Despite commitments to respecting the ceasefire, the situation on the line of contact remains as tense as ever. The OSCE Mission identified more than 30 victims in January alone. Let us not forget that Ukraine is now the third most mined area in the world, after Iraq and Afghanistan, and that it will take several decades to clear it.
As my German colleague and friend said, since the onset of hostilities France and Germany, in conjunction with the OSCE, have spared no effort in the so-called Normandy format to bring the parties closer together, facilitate the full implementation of the Minsk agreements by the latter and contribute thereby to ending the conflict. In order to achieve that objective, three points deserve our full attention.
First, much remains to be done to implement the commitments that were made several years ago to improve security conditions, which include respecting the ceasefire; withdrawing heavy weapons from the line of contact; disengaging from three pilot areas that were identified by the September 2016 framework agreement; clearing mines, on which no significant progress has been noted; and lastly, protecting critical civilian infrastructure and its workers. We regret the lack of political will to implement commitments that were made at the highest level.
Beyond the Donbas, France reiterates its concern about Russia’s illegal use of military force in the Kerch Strait. Equally worrying are the excessive inspections that have been carried out by the Russian coast guard in the Sea of Azov since last spring. Following the serious naval incident in November, there is a greater need than ever for commercial and military ships to enjoy safe, free and unhindered passage, and for the 24 illegally detained Ukrainian seamen to be released immediately and without condition.
Secondly, in the context of open conflict in eastern Ukraine and tensions related to the illegal annexation of Crimea, the civilian population is on the front line. Ukraine is facing one of the largest humanitarian crises of the past 10 years. In total, as mentioned by Assistant Secretary-General Mueller, 3.5 million women and men, particularly the most vulnerable older persons — representing nearly 10 per cent of the population— depend on humanitarian assistance.
France once again calls on the parties to facilitate the crossing of the line of contact by civilian populations and spare them the suffering associated with waiting in inhuman conditions, especially given the opening of new crossing points. We must not forget that more than 10 people have died in recent weeks due to the extremely harsh crossing and waiting conditions on both sides of the line of contact. Similarly, every effort must be made to ensure safe and unhindered access for humanitarian organizations and United Nations agencies, particularly in the territory controlled by separatist entities.
On 6 June 2018, in presidential statement S/PRST/2018/12, the Security Council called for the United Nations to take action to respond appropriately to the humanitarian crisis. In that regard, we welcome the humanitarian response plan for 2019-2020, prepared by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as well as the upcoming launch of a common finance fund for Ukraine. That initiative is a step towards greater awareness, and we fully support it.
Thirdly and in conclusion, an end to the crisis is first and foremost the responsibility of the parties, especially Russia. We encourage them to stop posturing and to implement all their obligations under the Minsk agreements, in the interest of a civilian population that is caught between heavy weapons and mines. Contrary to what we heard some minutes ago, the actual conflict is not the product of a so-called Western plot. Sitting around this table there is an aggressor country and a country that is subject to that aggression. The OSCE Mission, the outstanding work of which we commend, plays a central role in achieving that objective and resolving the crisis. We urge the parties, in particular the separatist entities, to allow observers to move freely throughout Ukraine to the Russian-Ukrainian border.
Pending the return to a lasting peace, to which we are striving tirelessly to contribute, the Ukrainian people can count on the full and complete support of France.