Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier met his Ukrainian counterpart Pavlo Klimkin at the Federal Foreign Office on 10 October. Their talks focused on the situation in eastern Ukraine and the monitoring of the border with Russia. Steinmeier said that Germany had officially offered the OSCE support for the monitoring of the border, but had not yet received a response.
No interpreters were needed for the meeting, as Klimkin speaks German, having been his country’s ambassador in Berlin prior to his appointment as Foreign Minister in June this year. So the two men could get straight to business: the main topics on their agenda were the situation in eastern Ukraine, the fragile ceasefire between the Ukrainian army and the separatists, and the role of the OSCE in the conflict.
Worrying news from Donbas
At a joint press conference with his colleague Pavlo Klimkin, Foreign Minister Steinmeier said that in recent days there had repeatedly been “worrying news of a fragile ceasefire, bloody clashes and casualties” from Donbas. The Minsk agreement, he went on, including the establishment of a buffer zone, complete troop withdrawal and a ceasefire on the Russian-Ukrainian border, was still the only realistic chance of a political solution to the crisis.
German support for the OSCE
Steinmeier also said that the OSCE had a key role to play in ensuring compliance with the agreement. In order to ensure the widest possible monitoring of the borders, he continued, the OSCE had asked its member states for support in the form of civilian drones. Germany had responded to this request, Foreign Minister Steinmeier said:
Yesterday we made the OSCE an offer, outlining the conditions under which the Bundeswehr can supply such drones. We are now waiting for a response not only from the OSCE itself, but also from its member states and from Ukraine and Russia.
Steinmeier also pointed out that there were still political and legal issues that needed to be clarified in this context.
According to Steinmeier, the Bundeswehr could provide two drones. These would be purely technical aids for monitoring the border – like satellite pictures or a “clearing house” where the OSCE could discuss possible border violations with representatives of Ukraine and Russia. These technical aids, the Minister said, did not replace the undertaking given by Ukraine and Russia themselves to stick to the Minsk agreement.
Help as a symbol of solidarity
The Ukrainian Foreign Minister pointed out that the Ukrainian parliament had already clarified important legal questions relating to the implementation of such technical support, but that an armed mission would have to be approved by the Ukrainian parliament, which is facing new elections at the end of the month.
Referring to developments over recent months, Klimkin said he had noted a “new dynamism in cooperation between Ukraine and Germany” and expressed his thanks for the humanitarian assistance Germany had provided. The hundred or so lorries with aid from Germany had been a “symbol of solidarity and help”, he said.