Germany voiced growing scepticism Wednesday about a Russian proposal to let UN-mandated forces help protect monitors observing the Ukraine conflict.
While Berlin “in principle welcomes” the proposal, “it remains to be seen whether agreement can be reached on the details,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokeswoman, Ulrike Demmer.
Russia had asked the UN Security Council on Tuesday to authorise a six-month deployment of a lightly-armed mission to protect observers of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
President Vladimir Putin said it should solely operate on the “demarcation line” between Ukranian troops and pro-Russian rebels, and only be deployed once heavy weaponry has been withdrawn.
Russia suggested its mandate and personnel makeup would be agreed with Kiev and representatives from the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, which are seeking to break away from Ukraine.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Tuesday cautiously welcomed the announcement, saying that “if this really constitutes an opportunity then we have to seize it”.
But Demmer stressed Wednesday that such a force would have to be able to operate in the entire conflict area, including along the Ukraine-Russia border.
She also said separatists must not have a say in setting up the force as this would spell “an unacceptable elevation of the status of the self-proclaimed leadership of the so-called people’s republics”.
Demmer stressed that fighting must stop and all the conditions of the 2015 Minsk ceasefire agreement be met.
Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of being behind the insurgency that has gripped swathes of its former industrial heartland.
Some 600 international OSCE observers are on the ground in eastern Ukraine, but their presence has failed to stop fighting in a conflict that has killed 10,000 people since 2014.