In his remarks, Rinkēvičs said the OSCE had an important role in dealing with the Ukrainian crisis and stressed the need for compliance with OSCE fundamental principles and values; he also drew attention to recent developments in the Sea of Azov and humanitarian issues in occupied Crimea.
“In November, we commemorated 100 years since the end of the First World War, pledging to never forget those who died in the trenches. Yet for five years, soldiers and civilians are again dying in Europe as a result of Russia’s blatant violation of Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity. Despite our efforts, despite the Minsk agreements and despite repeated calls for Russia to abide by the principles and commitments enshrined in Helsinki and Paris, no progress has been achieved so far," Rinkēvičs said.
"Even worse, recent illegitimate “elections” in the so-called “Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics” further violate international and Ukrainian law, as well as the Minsk agreements. The recent provocation by Russia, which illegally opened fire and seized three Ukrainian navy vessels near the Kerch Strait, is the latest demonstration of that. Therefore, we call on Russia to abide by international law, to immediately release the seized vessels and their crew, and to ensure free access to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov,” he added.
Rinkēvičs condemned the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol and drew attention to the fact that fighting in the eastern part of Ukraine was affecting peace and security across Europe.
“The human rights situation in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea is deteriorating at an alarming level. Therefore, a long-term peaceful resolution to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is essential, and this should also remain a top-priority for the OSCE. Other serious challenges to our commitments for peace and security in Europe are protracted conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Transnistria, as well as in the Nagorno-Karabakh. Stronger efforts and political will are desperately needed here to come to peaceful and sustainable solutions,” Rinkēvičs said, adding that “The OSCE provides us with a unique platform for dialogue and cooperation. However, we can use it to its full potential, only if we all return to a rules-based security order and respect and uphold our common principles and values.”