In today’s Permanent Council meeting, U.S. Permanent Representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Ambassador Daniel Baer welcomed the extension of the mandate of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission operating in Ukraine until March 2016.
“The Special Monitoring Mission has had to adapt and has dealt admirably with enormous challenges since we first adopted its mandate a year ago,” stated Ambassador Baer. Today’s extension also lifted the ceiling on the number of monitors from 500 to 1000, “which grants a measure of flexibility even if more resources would be needed to pay for an expansion, ” Baer explained.
The decision adopted today also included €65 million in partial financial support for the one year SMM operating budget. The United States and others pushed for more robust funding but Russia objected. “It is too bad–and, frankly, embarrassing– that even after President Putin says that the SMM should be strengthened, even after Foreign Minister Lavrov professes commitment to see the SMM properly resourced, and even though Russia pays only a paltry 2.5% of the assessed budget, the Russian delegation was the only one to block giving additional needed resources to the SMM,” Baer said. “Instead of pleading poverty in Vienna, Russia should save money by ceasing sending weapons and illegal convoys into Ukraine.”
The United States praised the efforts of the leadership of Ambassador Apakan and his team in providing a clear line of communication to the OSCE Permanent Council, all while operating in an ever-changing, dangerous environment. Unfortunately, OSCE monitors continue to face unacceptable restrictions on their movements, hindering their ability to effectively verify the withdrawal of heavy weapons in accordance with the February 12 Minsk implementation package. “As we focus on the ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons, we must not lose sight of the fact that Russian forces continue to mass along the border with Ukraine, and that there continues to be evidence that Russia continues to resupply the separatists with weapons and materiel,” Baer said.
Once again, Ambassador Baer called upon Ukraine, Russia, and the Russia-backed separatists to ensure that the members of the Special Monitoring Mission have unfettered access throughout the entire territory of Ukraine, including access to Crimea, and to guarantee the safety and security of the monitors as they carry out their duties. The United States reaffirmed its firm commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity of its internationally recognized borders and again called for complete implementation of the Minsk Agreements.