While aligning itself with the statement made by the European Union on behalf of the member states, France wishes to intervene, also on behalf of Germany, and underline the following points.
As they both noted in their statements published on 3 and 10 April, France and Germany are deeply concerned by the increase in ceasefire violations and by the recent deterioration of the security situation in eastern Ukraine. The sides renewed agreement last July to adhere to a ceasefire did lead to an unprecedented drop in violence since the signing of the Minsk Agreements. However, we have in recent weeks observed reduced respect for the ceasefire and, in particular, we regret that the number of casualties among the Ukrainian armed forces and civilians has increased since the start of 2021. We are continuing to closely monitor the situation, in which the risk of escalation should not be underestimated.
For several days now, we and other partners have observed large-scale Russian troop movements on the border with Ukraine. Such activities near the border are a cause for concern. In view of these movements of Russian forces, Ukraine decided to trigger the consultation mechanism provided for under Article 16.1 of the OSCE Vienna Document on Confidence and Security-Building Measures. France and Germany support the triggering by Ukraine of this consultation mechanism, which is specifically intended to address this type of concern. The explanations provided by the Russian Federation cannot be considered satisfactory as they do not provide relevant information to explain the activities in question and allay concerns. We also regret the Russian Federation’s refusal to attend the bilateral meeting convened by Ukraine, as provided for by the consultation mechanism initiated under the Vienna Document. We therefore call on Russia to reconsider its approach and to commit in good faith to respecting its politico-military commitments vis-à-vis the OSCE.
Our vigilance is also flanked by an active commitment on our part. France and Germany remain in regular contact with the parties, particularly within the Normandy format, with a view to easing tensions, such as at the meeting of diplomatic advisers held on 29 March. During their meeting with Vladimir Putin, the President of the Republic and the German Chancellor called on their Russian counterpart to fully commit to the effective observance of the ceasefire.
Respect for the ceasefire remains our number-one priority and is an essential condition for the implementation of the Minsk Agreements. The measures to stabilise the situation in the conflict zone, decided on at the Paris summit, remain imperfect for the time being.
While we welcome the renewal of the mandate of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, we call for an end to the restrictions on its freedom of movement, which remain a major obstacle to any substantial progress on the ground, so that the SMM can accomplish its mission in accordance with its mandate. We reiterate the need to ensure free, safe, secure and unimpeded access to the entire territory of Ukraine for SMM observers and equipment. France and Germany are fully seized of the need to remind Russia of its responsibility in this context. We also reiterate our full support for the Border Observation Mission (BOM).
France and Germany have, for their part, engaged in substantive discussions with the parties with a view to achieving a just and permanent settlement of the conflict. The aim is to succeed in drafting a sequence, taking into account the concerns of each party, in order to facilitate the implementation of the Minsk Agreements in their entirety.
We expect Russia to contribute to these discussions in a constructive and responsible spirit, both within the Normandy format and the Trilateral Contact Group. We also call on Russia to make greater use of the influence it has over the de facto representatives of areas not controlled by the Ukrainian Government.
In conclusion, France and Germany reaffirm their support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders. Our two countries are continuing their efforts, within the Normandy Format, with a view to the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements, and negotiations are being held on a regular basis to this end. Rest assured that France and Germany will not slacken their efforts in this regard.