The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has drafted a new peace plan for the war-torn Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. But Ukrainian authorities are not convinced it can help the situation.
According to the OSCE special representative in the trilateral contact group Martin Sajdik, this plan is not a replacement for the Minsk agreements – which included provisions for a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weaponry and local elections in parts of the Donbas – but“an escape from the deadlock, which these agreements have reached.”
OSCE special representative in the trilateral contact group Martin Sajdik speaking in Minsk, Belarus on August 26, 2015. Photo credit: Tatyana Zenkovich / EPA
Sajdik told Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung that over the past few years it became obvious that the Minsk agreements, which so far have failed to bring peace to the region, are “not very clear.”
“An essential point is that for the implementation of the central element – the holding of local elections – outside assistance is needed. We came to the conclusion that this could only be the United Nations,” he said.
He added that the OSCE was needed to assess the electoral process, and therefore could not organize the elections.
Sajdik, who authored the plan, said it was presented at the last meeting of the OSCE Foreign Ministers Council in December in the Italian city of Milan, where representatives from Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France were present.
The plan proposes that the UN and the OSCE work together under joint leadership led by a special representative. This would apply to both the military and police components of the UN and to the OSCE monitoring mission that already operates in the Donbas.
A transitional UN administration should also be created in both Donetsk and Luhansk regions to oversee the plan’s implementation as well as a European Union agency for restoration of Donbas.
The parliaments of the Normandy Four countries – Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany – would need to approve the plan and representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics would also be expected to take part in the process, as with the Minsk agreements.
The then leaders of the Normandy Four states – Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former French President François Hollande, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko – meet for signing the Minsk agreements in Minsk, Belarus on February 11, 2015. Photo credit: Tatyana Zenkovich / EPA
According to Sajdik, another problem with the Minsk agreements was that they were not approved by Ukrainian and Russian parliaments.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, however, showed skepticism when he commented that the new plan doesn’t contain any fundamentally new proposals and requires further development.
“It shows particular progress in its form – and its form only,” Klimkin stated during his visit to Donetsk region on January 29. “It is very important Sajdik and his colleagues understand that they need an international component - in the military and police, as well as an international administration. That’s a start. But [the plan's] content is practically the same.”
Klimkin further explained that the main logic of the Ukrainian side's proposal is that before elections can be carried out in the occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions, these territories need to be prepared by international organizations.
“If you read this [new] plan, you’ll see that it doesn’t even barely mention this idea,” he said.
It also appears that Ukraine’s Ministry for Temporarily Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced People hasn’t even been informed about the new plan. Its deputy minister, Georgiy Tuka, said he has just learned about it from the media.
"I have to disappoint you – we only know about the existence of this plan from the media,” Tuka told journalists. “We have not seen the original source, so it is difficult to comment on it since the devil usually lies in the details. Without knowing the details, I find it difficult to say whether this is some kind of new proposal.”
Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the new plan revolves around former concepts that provide for the establishment of international control over the Donbas, introduction of peacekeepers, control of the border, creation of a military-civilian administration and, in effect, removal of the current authorities.
As reported earlier, last September, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stated that Ukraine, Germany, France and the United States were "practically ready" to submit a draft resolution on the introduction of peacekeepers in Donbas to the UN Security Council.
Ukraine's Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin. Photo credit: EPA
U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker said that Sweden, Finland, Austria, Belarus, Serbia and Turkey had also stated their readiness to participate in the UN peacekeeping mission in Ukraine’s east.
However, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer told Hromadske he believed Russia plans to wait for Ukraine’s presidential election before it looks at resolving the question of a UN peacekeeping mission in the Donbas.