The conflict in eastern Ukraine - now in its sixth year - has resulted in over 12,000 deaths, 1.6 million people displaced and an estimated 3.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and protection.
2019 has seen a reinvigoration of efforts to secure implementation of the Minsk peace agreements within the framework of the OSCE Trilateral Contact Group (OSCE, Russia and Ukraine) and the Normandy Format (France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine).
Incremental progress has been made, including a tentative ceasefire since July, the disengagement of troops and weapons of the Ukrainian army and Russia-led forces in three locations, the reopening of a bridge crossing in Stanytsia Luhanksa, and a prisoner exchange with Russia.
The first Normandy Summit at Heads of State level in three years was held in Paris on 9 December. The meeting resulted in a commitment by all parties to deescalate the violence through ceasefires, further disengagement, and demining. If these commitments are fulfilled, the parties have committed to meeting again within four months to discuss political and security conditions necessary for the organisation of local elections in eastern Ukraine.
On 12 December Chancellor Merkel and President Macron briefed the European Council on progress at the Normandy summit, and EU leaders agreed to extend the economic sanctions imposed on Russia for another six months, until July 2020. The sanctions were introduced in 2014 and their duration is linked to the complete implementation of the Minsk agreements.
Ireland remains fully committed to the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and independence of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders. We welcome the efforts of France and Germany to find a resolution through the Normandy Format and stand ready to support the EU and the OSCE in the implementation of these agreements. Ireland particularly welcomes the humanitarian aspects of the agreements made and provisions for a de-escalation of violence. We strongly support the establishment of additional disengagement zones and the plans for an updated demining plan. The maintenance of the agreed upon ceasefire will have significant benefits in easing the dire humanitarian situation of civilians in the region.