Germany wants swift UN peacekeeping mandate for Ukraine
Berlin doubts US arms supplies to Kiev will help end war with Russian-led militia
German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel with Ukrainian counterpart Pavlo Klimkin in Kiev on Thursday. “I hope we will manage to adopt a realistic and suitable mandate for a UN mission before the elections in Russia,” said Mr Gabriel. Photograph: Gleb Garanich/Reuters
Germany has called for the swift approval of a strong United Nations peacekeeping mission for eastern Ukraine, but expressed doubt over whether US arms supplies to Kiev would help end a war that has claimed more than 10,000 lives.
On a visit to Ukraine, German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel also urged its leaders to pursue vital reforms and fight entrenched corruption, amid rising public discontent and dwindling will among politicians who are already eyeing elections due next year.
“The establishment of a reliable ceasefire should not depend on elections in Russia, ” Mr Gabriel said, referring to Russian presidential elections that are set for March 18th.
“I hope we will manage to adopt a realistic and suitable mandate for a UN mission before the elections in Russia,” he added.
“It should be an armed and strong UN peacekeeping mission, present across the whole territory of the conflict zone,” so as prevent the current frontline becoming “a new border inside Ukraine”, Mr Gabriel said.
Germany’s position tallies with those of Ukraine and the United States, but Russia has proposed that peacekeepers be restricted to frontline areas and only provide protection to monitors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
Other obstacles include Ukraine’s demand that no Russians take part in the mission, and Moscow’s insistence that Kiev negotiates on the issue with local separatist warlords whom Ukraine regards as Kremlin-controlled terrorists.
In recent weeks, shelling in the Donbas region has intensified again and Russian officers withdrew from a joint monitoring mechanism in the war zone that was one of few areas in which Moscow and Kiev officially co-operated.
An exchange of hundreds of prisoners at Christmas was a bright spot in a generally bleak picture in eastern Ukraine, where almost four years of fighting have killed more than 10,000 people and displaced about 1.6 million.
Late last month, the US approved the supply of deadly “defensive” weapons to Ukraine’s army, including sniper rifles and anti-tank rockets, having previously provided non-lethal items such as night-vision goggles, radar and medical kits.
Russia warns that the US decision will only increase bloodshed in Donbas, while Ukraine insists that the arms will only be used to resist further aggression.
“If there’s one thing the region already has lots of, it’s weapons,” Mr Gabriel said.
“In Germany we are sceptical that arms supplies could help end the conflict . . . But we are somewhat distant from the conflict and as a country we are secure, while Ukraine looks at this differently from the point of view of defence.”
“Our support goes beyond the conflict in the Donbas region,” Mr Gabriel added. “It also applies to the reform process in Ukraine. Development needs political reliability, especially concerning the fight against corruption.”