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Kiev must ensure security for Ukraine monitoring mission: OSCE

AFP | Last Updated: Monday, April 28, 2014 - 21:59

Interlaken: OSCE chairman and Swiss President Didier Burkhalter said Monday that plans to broaden the organisation`s monitoring mission in Ukraine depended on Kiev`s ability to ensure security for the monitors.

"Today we have a clear willingness not only to continue but also to strengthen the mission," Burkhalter told AFP, saying the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe planned to gradually up the number of monitors from the current 122 to 500.

However, he said the abduction of a team of international observers in the country raised concerns, hinting that if security could not be ensured, the organisation would reconsider the mission.

"We don`t want to stop, but it is our responsibility to assess the situation steadily," Burkhalter said on the sidelines of an OSCE conference in the central Swiss town of Interlaken, stressing that "if there is a change, then we will act."

"OSCE is really determined to continue the monitoring mission... but the security needs to be assured by the Ukrainian authorities," he said.

"There are more and more people in this monitoring mission and we want their security to be assured. We know that this is a special situation... but there are at least a series of measures that have to be undertaken to ensure the security of these people."

He suggested the Ukrainian authorities would make better progress on the security front if they made "more efforts in the national dialogue, in the integration of the different parts of the country, and less action in the direction of violence."

Burkhalter also stressed the important role Russia had to play in ensuring the release of the observers being held hostage and in calming the escalating tensions.

"Russia`s support will be crucial and must now rapidly translate into progress in the negotiation," he said, adding that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had assured him he wanted to see the hostage situation resolved quickly.

"But this message was not really heard in Slavyansk (the eastern city where the observers were abducted), and we have to redouble all the efforts to ensure this message is heard," he said.

Pro-Russian militants in Ukraine on Sunday presented the captured team of international observers as "prisoners of war", raising the stakes in the crisis as US President Barack Obama warned Moscow against "provocation".

Eight observers were captured on Friday and held in the Slavyansk town hall.

One of the them, a Swede who was said to suffer from diabetes, was freed late Sunday, but four Germans, a Pole, a Dane and a Czech remain in custody.

The rebels also captured four Ukrainian OSCE representatives, but they have not been seen in public since.
The OSCE is tasked with monitoring a faltering April 17 accord signed in Geneva between Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the European Union that was meant to ease the dangerous crisis in the ex-Soviet republic.
Under the deal, all "illegal armed groups" in Ukraine were supposed to disarm, but the pro-Russian rebels in the east have refused to do so.

First Published: Monday, April 28, 2014 - 21:59
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