Full implementation of the Minsk Agreement
The priority now is how the package of measures negotiated in Minsk can be "successfully implemented", stated Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel after her interview with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. In real terms, this is about: "How we can reinforce the OSCE mission so that monitoring can take place. How we can provide humanitarian assistance, if required, and how we can work together to help tackle the agenda for reform in Ukraine."
Sanctions dependent on progress
Sanctions were "also discussed, of course", said Merkel, but the main subject of the discussion was about putting an end to the bloodshed in the region - by way of a stable ceasefire. "Until now we have only managed to secure a fragile ceasefire and this must be made into a stable one", explained the Federal Chancellor.
What is clear, she added, is that if the Minsk Agreement is severely breached, the European Council and the European Commission would be prepared to draw up and enforce further sanctions. According to Merkel, after the previous day's , the following can be said regarding the ongoing implementation of the Minsk package of measures: "There is a correlation between existing sanctions and the full implementation of the Minsk package of measures." Full implementation even includes the demand for Ukraine to regain access to the Ukrainian-Russian border, which it currently does not have in certain areas.
The Federal Chancellor made it clear that "the territorial integrity of Ukraine will only be re-established once Ukrainian border officials can monitor the entire length of the Ukrainian-Russian border. There is this correlation - and our first priority is to do everything in our power to implement together what we have negotiated."
Agreement on further action
The correlation between sanctions and the implementation of the Minsk Agreement was agreed previously between the Federal Chancellor and other Western heads of state and government. In a video conference on Tuesday evening (3 March) Merkel spoke with Presidents Obama and Hollande, Prime Ministers Cameron and Renzi and EU Council President Tusk about the situation in Ukraine.
The video conference was set up by US President Barack Obama, explained Deputy Government Spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz in the Federal Government press conference on Wednesday. The parties to the conversation had referred to the close correlation between existing sanctions and the implementation of the Minsk Agreement. At the same time they had confirmed their readiness to enforce further sanctions in the event of a renewed escalation of the crisis.
They also agreed that Ukraine would be supported both financially but also through intensive consultation, said Wirtz. This had to be accompanied by a corresponding readiness on the part of Ukraine to implement reform, she continued. The objective is still a Ukraine that can decide its own path in free self-determination and territorial integrity, she said.
Reinforcing the OSCE mission
As previously agreed in a telephone conversation on Monday between Federal Chancellor Merkel, Presidents Putin, Poroshenko and Hollande, the parties to the conversation on Tuesday agreed that the role of the OSCE should be reinforced. The work of the OSCE and its observer missions is of considerable importance to the implementation of the Minsk Agreement and must continue to be supported, said Merkel.
On Monday evening the three presidents and Merkel called upon the OSCE to publish a daily report on relevant current developments.
The four also agreed on the urgent need for a prisoner exchange and that humanitarian assistance should be provided in conjunction with the International Committee of the Red Cross. As soon as the preconditions have been fulfilled, the working groups agreed in Minsk should be set up to deal with outstanding tasks. This includes preparations for local elections in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
The further implementation of subjects considered in the telephone conversation will be discussed by senior officials in the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin this Friday (06.03.).
Federal Foreign Office Spokesman Schäfer stated in the Federal Government press conference on Wednesday that "the situation is calmer than it was a few weeks ago. The reduction in the number and severity of military skirmishes has been clear and sustained." This trend has been confirmed over the course of the last few days. This has also been shown in the daily reports by the OSCE in areas in which there has still been fighting in the past, said the spokesman.
There is still fighting in the Mariupol area. "Of course, we are still very concerned as a result of this. This is why we expect the conflicting parties - including the government in Moscow, of course - to do everything in their power to, firstly, put a permanent stop to the fighting, in accordance with the Minsk Agreement of 12 February", said Schäfer.
Secondly, they must not pursue any strategies which serve the purpose of extending positions beyond the demarcation line agreed in Minsk from which heavy weapons are currently being withdrawn. "That would clearly mean a further and renewed escalation of the crisis, which no-one wants and which would certainly not be without further consequences", warned the spokesman.
The ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons are right at the top of the list of 13 items on the Minsk Protocol drawn up by the Contact Group. "At the moment we are discussing items 1 and 2", said Schäfer on Monday. There is still "a great deal to do", he added. Even if both sides had withdrawn their heavy weapons over the weekend, we are still "a long way away" from an all-clear, said the spokesman.
The Federal Government is "pleased and grateful" that the OSCE is taking its job very seriously and that, despite limited resources, it is doing everything it can to monitor the ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons, Schäfer continued.
At their meeting in Paris on Tuesday (24.02.2015) the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine agreed to extend the OSCE civilian observer mission.
Ministries coordinate German OSCE aid
Whether the OSCE staff numbers are adequate for the organisation's many tasks - the mission currently has 500 staff - must be clarified within the OSCE Council, said Schäfer on Monday. The OSCE has already submitted proposals to the member states stating which technical aids could be used, in particular to verify the withdrawal off heavy weapons, he explained. What Germany can provide is currently being determined between the Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry of Defence, he said.