Ukraine peace talks on the "right track" - Foreign Minister
Ukraine/ministerial meeting in “Normandy” format – Statement by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, following the meeting
Paris, 3 March 2016
Ladies and gentlemen,
We met this evening in the so-called “Normandy” format to examine the proposals submitted to us by the OSCE. These proposals had been mentioned at the last ministerial meeting, which was held in Munich at the beginning of February. The discussions related to three specific points on this evening’s agenda: consolidating an actual ceasefire, the practicalities of local elections in Donbass, and making those elections safe.
The discussions went ahead in a direct, frank climate free of waffle, and this enabled us to make progress on a number of essential issues.
Firstly, on the consolidation of the ceasefire, there are several aspects to consider.
First of all, the ceasefire itself also requires a withdrawal of weapons. We called on the parties to reaffirm publicly their commitment to refrain from all use of weapons in the security zone, including for the purposes of training. In this regard, we welcomed the agreement reached in Minsk yesterday in the framework of the trilateral contact group, and we called for its swift implementation.
We called on the parties to supply all the information necessary for the OSCE’s monitoring and effective verification of the withdrawal of all heavy weapons, without delay.
We also called on the parties to complete the withdrawal of heavy weapons. I mentioned this several times in the speech; it was one of the subjects of the discussion that ultimately went well.
Now, as regards effective monitoring, verification and coordination of the ceasefire, commitments were also made.
We called on the parties to guarantee full, unrestricted access to the SMM, the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine.
We called on the JCCC, the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination, to identify those responsible for violations and ensure the necessary measures are taken to prevent them acting again.
We called for the establishment by 30 April 2016, in coordination with the OSCE’s SMM, of a mechanism to prevent and resolve incidents.
Finally, as regards the humanitarian and socio-economic aspects, we welcomed the agreement reached yesterday on mine clearance, also in Minsk, and called for its swift and full implementation.
We called for unrestricted, unhampered access for international humanitarian aid to civilians who need it in the areas affected by the conflict. Currently, many NGOs no longer have any access; it was important for a commitment to be made on that point this evening.
We also called for the release and exchange of all prisoners and all people detained illegally, by 30 April 2016. Access for the international Red Cross to all detainees linked to the conflict must also be guaranteed.
I’ll get onto the second major theme: the practicalities of holding local elections in Donbass.
We examined the proposals prepared by the OSCE, in particular about the electoral system, the administration of the elections and the role and participation of political parties. We emphasized the importance of the Ukrainian Parliament and government drawing up and adopting an electoral law, to enable local elections to be held, and we expressed the wish for those local elections to be held before the end of the first half of 2016, according to the sequence adopted by the heads of state and government in Paris on 2 October. The ministers discussed compromise solutions on the practicalities of organizing the elections. Proposals were also made by the OSCE’s political working group, and we reaffirmed the importance of compliance with Ukrainian electoral law and with international standards for the organization of those elections.
Finally, the third subject on the agenda of our discussions this evening was making the elections safe.
On this point, we called on the OSCE to provide us by 31 March with concrete, practical options for adequately making the elections safe: above all, it’s true, this requires responsibility from all parties, but at the same time we believed there could be no elections without a guarantee of security.
As you can see, the discussions were relatively lengthy, but the in-depth discussions this evening were, once again, held in a frank and direct climate, with a determination to make progress, even if we’re moving forward one step at a time. We made progress on concrete points, and that was my goal. As I’ve said, we avoided raking over the past. We worked on the basis of the Minsk agreements – in a way, they’re our road map – and in order to achieve an effective result we must remain highly mobilized. At any rate, that’s my strong belief this evening.
We set a number of objectives and a working timetable for the coming weeks, to continue working in the framework of the “Normandy” format, because it’s a good method. At the same time, we must take a new step every time. Nothing would be worse than to meet for nothing, which isn’t the case this evening. Our goal – at any rate, it was that of Frank-Walter Steinmeier and myself when we went to Kiev a few days ago – is to find solutions to this especially difficult conflict.
Russia and Ukraine must play their full role in the success of these commitments. We know there are still a lot of efforts to be made in this direction to ensure the process succeeds, but we’re confident, because there’s a determination, at any rate there’s a determination in organizing this meeting in Paris; there will most probably be others. Anyway, this evening we took a step. We’ll have more to take, but it’s the right track, the right path, and we’re going to continue with the maximum firmness and clarity.