STATEMENT BY AMBASSADOR RAUF ENGİN SOYSAL, PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF TURKEY, In response to Ambassador Marschik, Secretary General Zannier, Ambassador Sajdik, Ambassador Apakan and Mr. Vial, (1140th Special Meeting of the Permanent Council)
Thank you, Mr. Chairperson.
I join previous speakers in warmly welcoming all our guests and thank them for their insightful statements. Combined, what we have heard from the speakers have given us a much clearer image of the current situation on the ground. As such, they have provided us with a very fitting introduction to making this Special Session of the Permanent Council special and reminded us of the urgency of stepping up efforts in resolving the crisis.
We are heartened by the agreement reached in the Trilateral Contact Group on 29 March on a renewed commitment for ceasefire and withdrawal of Minsk-regulated weapons along the line of contact. However, we note that, although fewer in number, ceasefire violations in eastern Ukraine continued during the past days. We also note that the information on withdrawal of weapons provided to SMM have so far been only partial. We call on all sides to swiftly implement their commitments in full.
We underline yet again that the crisis in and around Ukraine needs to be settled through peaceful diplomatic meansrespectful of the country’s territorial integrity, including Crimea, as well as itsindependence, sovereignty andpolitical unity, in line withour OSCE commitments and with international law.
We continue to fully support the SMM and its members who are performing remarkably under constantly shifting conditions on the ground. Sometimes I get the impression that the term “SMM Monitors” can be a bit too impersonal, too abstract. We should always bear inmind that we are, in fact, speaking of fellow individuals with names, families and the courage to work under extremely trying circumstances. We commend the top priority accorded by Chief Monitor Apakan to the safety and security of these brave persons who are there in the field as a result of a decision that we took here together in Vienna. This should, therefore, remain a top priority matter for all participating States as well. Regrettably, incidents of threats, intimidation and interferences involving SMM staff and its assets continue in an increasing and an ever more precarious manner. It is all the more worrying that these incidents run parallel to irresponsible statements and persistent disinformation campaigns against SMM in those areas outside the effective control of the Ukrainian government. Such provocative statements put the SMM, its members and assets in crosshairs and undermine local confidence in the Mission. They must, therefore, stop immediately.
We also reiterate our call for ensuring SMM’s full, unhindered access throughout Ukraine, including the regions along the Ukraine-Russia state border and the designated disengagement areas.
The Trilateral Contact Group remains the most important platform to register progress towards a solution through the comprehensive and holistic implementation of the Minsk Agreements.
We continue to hope for news on further outcomes from the meetings of the TCG and its four Working Groups, including release of detainees, alleviation of humanitarian conditions and restoration of critical infrastructure. We also hope for an agreement on the modalities of the local elections in certain areas of Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts, which need to be held in accordance with Ukrainian legislation and OSCE standards under ODIHR monitoring. While in anticipation of all these, we have to underline, and perhaps sternly so, in light of past experience, that the pronunciation of agreements is not sufficient in itself—the agreements need to be implemented.
We are reading the SMM’s reports on the civilian casualties and on damages to the residential areas in Donbas with concern. Mr. Vial highlighted to us further aspects of the formidable hardships the local population faces. Regrettably, civilians continue to remain most vulnerable in crisis affected areas. We, therefore, support the efforts of international humanitarian organizations and urge the sides to work on practical measures to improve the daily lives of the local population. Human security needs to be placed at the center of the efforts in the settlement of the crisis.
I would like to emphasize yet again our condemnation of the ongoing violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in illegally occupied Crimea, in particular the collective and systematic pressure brought to bear on the Crimean Tatar community.
On a final note, I wish to express our disappointment that we have not been able to adopt any text on the occasion of this Special Permanent Council prompted by the alarming situation on the ground. Such a text would have sent a strong and meaningful message to the stakeholders, to the world at large, and, perhaps most importantly, to the persons working under the SMM.
In conclusion, allow me to reiterate Turkey’s strong and unwavering support to Ambassador Sajdik and the TCG, to Ambassador Apakan and the SMM, as well as to their important and fruitful cooperation. We highly appreciate your dedication and hard work to contribute to the achievement of a sustainable settlement of the crisis in and around Ukraine.