Lajčák: The crisis in and around Ukraine is a top priority of Slovakia’s OSCE Chairmanship
KYIV, 17 January 2019 – Concluding a two-day official visit to Ukraine, the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Slovakia’s Foreign and European Affairs Minister Miroslav Lajčák said he was shocked by the alarming conditions of people living near the contact line in the country’s east, and called on the sides to step up their efforts for a peaceful political solution to the crisis.
Lajčák, on his first official visit as OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, witnessed the daily hardships experienced by people caught in the crisis in and around Ukraine. These included the dangerous journeys people are forced to take because of attacks on critical infrastructure, such as crossing the seriously damaged bridge at the Stanytsia Luhanska entry-exit checkpoints. “In Europe – in the 21st century – people should not be struggling to have their basic needs met,” said Lajčák.
“The crisis in and around Ukraine is a top priority of Slovakia’s OSCE Chairmanship,” he stressed. “Being on the ground, I can see the critical work the OSCE is doing and how much more needs to be done. For the people affected, this conflict dictates their daily lives. Direct or nearby shelling is an everyday reality. We need to do better and come up with new and innovative ideas to improve their living conditions.”
To raise awareness of the most vulnerable people and the need to support the protection of critical infrastructure, Lajčák also visited the Luhansk Regional Children’s Hospital in Lysychansk, and donated 24 tons of humanitarian aid from Slovakia.
Supporting concrete projects like this will be high on the agenda of the Slovak Chairmanship, he said. Slovakia also aims to work closely with other international and regional organizations such as the United Nations and the European Union, as well as other partners like the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Seeing how the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (SMM) operates, Lajčák underlined the need for continuous support and further strengthening of its important work. “The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission is doing crucial work in reducing tensions on the ground,” he noted. “The monitors are the eyes and ears of the organization and they directly contribute to the prevention of further escalation.”
He added that the work of the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Ukraine offered an important long-term dimension to the organization’s activities in the country, particularly in supporting constitutional, legal and criminal justice reforms, and in addressing the concerns of conflict-affected communities.
The Chairperson-in-Office also called for strong co-operation among the Trilateral Contact Group; the OSCE Chairperson’s Special Representative Martin Sajdik; and the Normandy format, in finding a peaceful political solution to the crisis.
A critical precondition for any positive development and ultimately lasting peace is a ceasefire, he said. “We are unlikely to see political momentum when shells are still falling from the sky,, Lajčák stressed.
While in Ukraine, the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office met with Ukrainian Prime Minister, Volodymyr Groysman; Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin; Defence Minister, Stepan Poltorak; and the members of the Ukrainian delegation to the Trilateral Contact Group led by First Deputy Chair of the Verkhovna Rada, Iryna Gerashchenko. With his Ukrainian partners, he discussed the crisis in and around Ukraine, as well as how to best support the work of the SMM and mitigate the risks faced by people living close to the contact line.
The upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections were also a focus of the discussions. “I am confident that all actors in Ukraine will work hard to ensure that the upcoming elections will be open, free and fair. And it is my hope that there will be no interference from external actors,” Lajčák said. “The elections can set the stage for a more peaceful and prosperous future for all Ukrainians. A future we all want.”