BERLIN/VIENNA – The mandate of the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) was extended to March 31, 2017, by the OSCE Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The move welcomed by OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Germany’s Foreign Affairs Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Secretary General Lamberto Zannier.
“We have thereby ensured that the SMM can continue to perform and enlarge its important role in stabilizing the ceasefire in implementation of the Minsk accords,” Mr. Steinmeier said on February 18.
He stated: “Nearly 700 monitors from 46 OSCE participating states work day by day to give us objective data on compliance with the ceasefire and on the withdrawal of weapons in eastern Ukraine. Unfortunately, they have reported that the ceasefire remains fragile and that the mission still does not have full access to the entire conflict zone. If we want to make headway on implementing the Minsk agreements, progress must finally be made on these points. All sides are called upon to comply strictly with the ceasefire and to finally grant the SMM unhindered access to the entire conflict area – with no exceptions!”
Mr. Steinmeier thanked the chief monitor of the SMM, Ertugrul Apakan, and all members of the mission for their tireless work, “often performed under dangerous conditions.” Mr. Steinmeier also paid tribute to all those who support the SMM with personnel, technical equipment and funding. “Without them all, we would not be where we are today with respect to implementing the Minsk agreements,” he added.
The OSCE secretary general noted that the monitors do an outstanding job despite the difficult security situation.
“I remind all sides in the conflict of their obligations under the Minsk agreements and the need to ensure unfettered and safe access for monitors as they carry out their mandate,” said Mr. Zannier. “The monitors will continue to work on verifying the withdrawal of weapons and strengthening national dialogue to help achieve a sustainable peace and restore stability.”
In the decision taken on February 18, the approved SMM budget for the period of April 1, 2016, to March 31, 2017, is 98.8 million euros.
The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission was launched in March 2014 in response to the crisis in and around Ukraine.
Previously, on January 21, the OSCE’s 57 participating states took a consensus decision to extend the mandate of the OSCE Observer Mission at the Russian checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk by three months to April 30.
The mandate of that mission remains unchanged. Operating under the principles of impartiality and transparency, the observers monitor and report on the situation at the two Russian checkpoints, as well as on the movements across the border.
The Observer Mission currently comprises 20 civilian observers who will continue to operate 24/7 in teams. The mission was launched on July 29, 2014, following a consensus decision of the OSCE Permanent Council.