2015 WM 20Feb CompositeOSCE officials (top) addressed the Assembly ahead of the debate on Ukraine, 20 February.
VIENNA, 20 February 2015 – Nearly 250 parliamentarians from more than 50 OSCE participating States held an impassioned and at-times heated debate today on the crisis in Ukraine, the Organization's responses and the status of the Minsk package of measures aimed at a resolution.

Top OSCE officials working on the crisis, including Ambassadors Heidi Tagliavini and Ertugrul Apakan, offered remarks ahead of the debate, which was held at the concluding session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Winter Meeting in Vienna.

In his opening remarks , PA President Ilkka Kanerva (MP, Finland) said, "As lawmakers from the OSCE's 57 states we must be vocal and unequivocal in furthering the goal of peace in and around Ukraine. With every rocket launched, hope for a diplomatic solution grows dimmer."

He also asked parliamentarians to consider both within the Assembly and in their home parliaments the idea of an international peacekeeping mission in eastern Ukraine, which could complement the OSCE's current work on the ground.

Kanerva met ahead of the debate with representatives of the Ukrainian and Russian Delegations to the OSCE PA to encourage constructive dialogue on the crisis.

Amb. Tagliavini, the Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office in Ukraine and in the Trilateral Contact Group, told parliamentarians, "We do believe that Debaltseve will not bring an end to the Minsk agreements."

However, she added that, "There is not a single day in the Ukrainian conflict when we can feel sure what the next day will bring us. There is, even, the frequent fear that the situation in eastern Ukraine may completely get out of hand."

Read Tagliavini's prepared remarks here .

Amb. Apakan, Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), urged all parties to the conflict to recognize that commitments to peace agreed in the Belarusian capital are not open to interpretation:

"This is a Minsk process. There is no differentiation -- 'this Minsk process' and 'that Minsk process.' Minsk is one," he said.

Amb. Adam Kobieracki, Director of the OSCE Conflict Prevention Centre, conceded that while the OSCE will continue its determined efforts to support a diplomatic resolution to the conflict, there remains "the absence of an essential catalyst -- political will."

Dozens of parliamentarians from countries ranging from Denmark to Georgia to Serbia offered interjections in the ensuing debate, including several members of both the Ukrainian and Russian Delegations to the OSCE PA.

Artur Gerasymov, the Head of the Ukrainian Delegation, lamented what he called "unscrupulous attempts to twist the Minsk package."

"Is the Russian Federation sincerely interested in sustaining a ceasefire and withdrawing heavy weapons, as agreed in the Minsk package? So far that is not apparent," he continued.

Alexey Pushkov of the Russian Delegation responded by insisting that Russia cannot be the only country held responsible for the implementation of the Minsk package and lamented that "Trust has been one of the main victims of the crisis in Ukraine."

Among other interjections, Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu (MP, Romania) warned against the potential for a "frozen conflict" in Ukraine and urged the extension and expansion of the OSCE Observer Mission at the Ukrainian-Russian border.

OSCE PA Vice-President Vilija Aleknaite Abramikiene (MP, Lithuania) urged OSCE participating States to consider the ramifications of Russia's actions on the OSCE's founding document and fundamental principles:

"It is ironic that to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of Helsinki Final Act, the Kremlin has sent us a bloody invitation to its funeral," she said.

Ignacio Sanchez Amor, the Deputy Head of the Spanish Delegation, urged the Assembly to utilize the potential of the PA to foster dialogue between participating States, even during moments of sharp disagreement.

Andreas Aebi, the Head of the Swiss Delegation, called for participating States to support increased resources and personnel for the SMM as it facilitates the Minsk package.

For more information on the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Winter Meeting, including videos, photos and speeches, click here.