Germany says Russia backs OSCE unlimited access in east Ukraine
Russia has agreed the OSCE should have unlimited access to monitor the latest ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, including the withdrawal of heavy weapons, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Saturday.
Steinmeier and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov had on Friday called "on the OSCE to make a quick decision on extending the mandate of its special monitoring mission and ramping up its size to 1,000 observers" from the current 452.
"The crucial question is of course that the OSCE gets access there where it was denied access in the past," Steinmeier said after an EU foreign ministers meeting in the Latvian capital Riga.
"Yesterday in the talks in Berlin and as well as between President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor (Angela Merkel) we got the assurance at least from the Russian side that the OSCE should be guaranteed unlimited access," he added.
OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier said Friday that the group was still being denied full access to monitor the truce.
"There are areas which we simply can't reach," Zannier told AFP in Riga where he attended the EU foreign ministers meeting.
Steinmeier said he had later checked with Lavrov that the OSCE would also be allowed full access to verify the complete withdrawal of heavy weapons, a key provision in the February 12 Minsk accord brokered by France and Germany with Russia and Ukraine.
"The OSCE will in the future not only observe the pull-back of heavy weapons but verify as well at which places these heavy weapons are pulled back to," he said.
"This would be decisive progress with a view to the security situation," he added.
Checking both the withdrawal start-point and then the later disposition of heavy weapons should remove suspicions that they are only being moved for for show.
The February 12 ceasefire accord has so far held much better than a September agreement but the situation remains fragile and Kiev and the pro-Russian rebels in the east are deeply suspicious of each other.
© 2015 AFP