The ceasefire agreement in eastern Ukraine is not holding and European security observers are facing increasing threats, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday.
NATO supports Russia’s, Germany’s, France’s and Ukraine’s efforts to resolve the Donbas conflict and welcome new initiatives toward implementing the set of ceasefire agreements in eastern Ukraine, Stoltenberg said.
“NATO is strongly supportive of the Minsk process, the Normandy format, because we strongly believe that this is the best format for solving the crisis in Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said at a joint press conference with the Ukrainian president in Kiev.
He said the alliance welcomes “renewed initiatives to have new meetings and have new efforts to try to make sure that the Minsk agreements are fully implemented.”
“It is clear that the ceasefire is not holding and we are concerned by the increasing threats against OSCE monitors. The Minsk agreements remain the only path toward peace.”
“I strongly underlined the importance of economic sanctions. It is not for NATO to decide on economic sanctions, but NATO allies are implementing sanctions, and I think it is extremely important to maintain the sanctions,” Stoltenberg said.
He stressed that NATO had tripled the size of its response force and increased its eastern presence in response to the alleged “Russian threat.”
The Donbass conflict erupted in April 2014 as a local counter-reaction to the West-sponsored Maidan coup in Kiev that had toppled President Viktor Yanukovych in February. Residents of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions held independence referendums and proclaimed the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. Kiev has since been conducting a military operation, encountering stiff local resistance.
In February 2015, Kiev forces and Donbass independence supporters signed a peace agreement in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. The deal stipulates a full ceasefire, weapons withdrawal from the line of contact in Donbass, as well as constitutional reforms that would give a special status to the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. Despite the agreement brokered by the Normandy Four states (Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine), the ceasefire regime is regularly violated, with both sides accusing each other of multiple breaches, undermining the terms of the accord.