In Brussels, Burkhalter details Ukraine plans

Burkhalter spoke before the European Foreign Affairs Council on Monday Keystone

Fair elections, roundtable discussions and nationwide dialogues form the cornerstones of a “roadmap” peace plan for Ukraine detailed by Swiss President Didier Burkhalter in Brussels in his capacity as the leader of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

This content was published on May 12, 2014 minutes and agencies

“Despite the steps undertaken by the Ukrainian government to implement the Geneva Statement [agreed on April 17 by the United States, Russia and Ukraine ], the situation has deteriorated further in parts of the country,” Burkhalter pointed out in his speech before the European Union’s foreign ministers. “Hostages have been taken, administrative buildings seized by armed groups, and people injured and killed.”

As part of the OSCE plan to calm tensions, representatives from the organisation will observe Ukrainian presidential elections scheduled for May 25 to ensure they are conducted fairly, Burkhalter said.

In addition, disarmament experts from the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey and from Germany are set to travel to Kiev to discuss steps towards getting both sides to lay down their weapons.

Burkhalter said the most progress had been made towards encouraging a “broad national dialogue” to discuss issues like Russian language prevalence and decentralisation.

“Reaching out to all of Ukraine’s regions and political constituencies will help reverse the polarisation of Ukrainian society,” he emphasised.

The Swiss president announced a series of high-level roundtable discussions led by the OSCE which would bring together “leading representatives from national government authorities, the Ukrainian Parliament, and representatives from the regions.”

Those roundtables will start in a pilot format in the next few days, Burkhalter added, and will be co-moderated by German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger. The OSCE has recommended that a bipartisan Ukrainian public figure serve as moderator.

Throughout his remarks, Burkhalter emphasised the “sense of urgency” prevailing over the OSCE’s plans to prevent further deterioration of the situation in Ukraine.

“We do not have to agree on every detail. But we need to agree to take action and implement some measures immediately,” Burkhalter added. “We cannot afford to lose time.”

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