Lamberto Zannier: We have already seen an improvement of the situation on the ground. There have been numerous violations of the ceasefire in the last few months but in the last few days the situation has improved, which makes us optimistic. For OSCE the key remains in the implementation of a political process that started in Minsk and the role of the tripartite Contact-Group. In the foreground is the implementation of a ceasefire but also the withdrawal of weapons, exchange of prisoners and so on. We have people on the ground that will engage with both sides and follow the implementation. An effective ceasefire would create a space for further engagement.
The key to a diplomatic solution in Ukraine is in the process that has started in Minsk, OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier told DW. But the Crimean issue is not likely to be resolved soon.
DW: At the last Ministerial Council of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), participating states were united in recognizing that there could be no military solution to the crisis in Ukraine. On the other hand, both sides on the frontlines seem to have no intention of moving towards a ceasefire. How can that dissonance be overcome?
Eight months ago, the foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, the USA and the EU pledged their full support to your mission in a joint statement. But then we witnessed serious violence afterwards. What are the obstacles the OSCE faces in pursuing a peaceful resolution?
We cannot enforce peace, only create the conditions for it. The OSCE is engaged on two levels: politically, and on the ground, where our mandate is to monitor and report. But we don't have direct control over the use of weapons. The key players have influence on the ground and they will have to play their role. The OSCE can facilitate, but it must be the actors themselves who contribute to the de-escalation.
German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger, who is leading a panel on Ukraine, said that all sides have to search for a solution that would not make anybody look like a loser. What would such a solution look like?
I cannot propose solutions. But I agree with Ischinger, the key point in international negotiations in general is to find constructive solutions which allow all sides to move forward without being humiliated.
This kind of solution is hardly imaginable, since nobody expects President Putin to give Crimea back to the Ukrainians.
The issue of Crimea remains on the agenda and it will obviously not be an easy one, considering such big differences. In the context of the OSCE, this issue emerges regularly, I would say.
Your last job was to represent the UN in Kosovo. The former Serbian province is one example of a frozen conflict which has had no definitive solution for more than 15 years. Could Ukraine and especially Crimea be the next case of this kind?
In the beginning of a frozen conflict nobody can predict whether this conflict will remain frozen or not. But there are some elements which suggest that the problem could remain for some time. That is troubling.
Besides fighting in eastern Ukraine, there is the financial war, which uses sanctions as a weapon in the conflict between Russia and the West. How does that affect peace talks?
These sanctions have an impact, as all processes around the crisis we are dealing with do. They are amplifying the divisions that we also have within the OSCE. Some participating states implemented sanctions because they argue very strongly that Russia, another participating state that is the object of the sanctions, has violated some fundamental principles.
Would you agree that any kind of diplomatic solution has to include the suspension of sanctions?
The sanctions are not part of an OSCE policy and are not being discussed within the organization. That will have to be the assessment of the countries who applied the measures.
Serbia is taking over the presidency of the OSCE in 2015. Belgrade was often criticized for its close relations with Russia. But some experts and politicians argue that Europe should use those good relations with both the West and Russia to find a solution to the crisis. Do you think the fact that Belgrade is taking over could speed things up?
I agree that having good relations with everybody helps. We have seen Switzerland this year as a neutral country that positioned itself between the sides trying to facilitate a solution. That was obviously not easy - one always gets complaints from both right and left - but it also creates a space for a contribution. My feeling is that Serbia is the same. It is strongly engaged in a European perspective and has traditionally very strong relations with Moscow. Those are positive elements for Belgrade to play a role of an honest mediator. Of course, Serbia also has experience with regional conflicts and their implications. It had to learn some bitter lessons which can now be applied in a different context.
Italian diplomat Lamberto Zannier took up the post of OSCE Secretary General on July 1, 2011. From 2008 to 2011 he was UN Special Representative for Kosovo.