Russia, Germany urge OSCE to double Ukraine observers to 1,000
Russia and Germany on Friday urged the OSCE, which is charged with monitoring a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, to double the number of observers in the country to 1,000, Moscow said.
The Russian foreign ministry said that the country's top diplomat Sergei Lavrov and his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier had called for intensified efforts by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe in monitoring the fragile truce.
The unarmed civilian mission which deployed to the conflict-torn region a year ago currently stands at just over 450 observers.
The organisation will soon have to decide whether to renew its mandate, which ends on March 23, and whether the number of monitors on the ground should be increased.
"The ministers called on the OSCE Permanent Council to make a quick decision on extending the mandate of its special monitoring mission, ramping up its size to 1,000 observers and assigning it additional technical and financial resources," said a statement from the Russian foreign ministry after a phone call between Lavrov and Steinmeier.
The leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine -- who hammered out the ceasefire deal between Kiev and Moscow-backed rebels in Minsk in February -- this week agreed to send OSCE observers to flashpoint sites where the truce was being violated.
The intensified monitoring by the OSCE would start in 10 trouble spots, including the Donetsk airport area which fell to the pro-Russian separatists in January after months of close-range combat.
The leaders called for greater OSCE involvement and suggested that the monitoring mission publish a daily report on its observations.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said Tuesday that the leaders "agreed that the OSCE should play a more important role in monitoring the ceasefire and the withdrawal of weapons."
Lavrov and Steinmeier also noted "progress on issues of observing the truce and withdrawal of heavy weapons by Ukrainian troops and Donetsk and Lugansk rebels."
The OSCE mission constantly reports being restricted from accessing certain areas, in a bid to better observe the weapons withdrawal.
In its report of the situation on the ground Friday the mission said it was limited in its monitoring capabilities due to a "lack of information on whereabouts of landmines, and restrictions imposed by third parties."
The OSCE mission said security guarantees from the rebels were "not always provided."
© 2015 AFP