In a joint statement after the meeting Ministers "strongly condemned the indiscriminate shelling of the residential areas, especially in Mariupol and the recent escalation of fighting in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine. The Council is shocked by the high number of casualties. It notes evidence of continued and growing support given to the separatists by Russia, which underlines Russia's responsibility. "
The statement went on to say "the Council expects Russia to exert its influence and to induce the separatists, without delay to stop their hostile actions and live up fully to their commitments under the Minsk agreements, including notably the cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the security zone along the line of contact foreseen in the Minsk Memorandum, as urgent first steps, which the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine called for in the Joint Statement, following their talks in Berlin on 21 January."
Speaking after the meeting in Brussels, Federica Mogherini – who chaired the meeting - said the EU has decided to support diplomatic efforts to end the crisis – notably the efforts that Ambassador Tagliavini is taking in Kyiv and with a possible meeting in Minsk Friday. She also said the European Union had decided to extend restrictive measures (sanctions), targeting persons. It was also decided to add further people and companies and this would be announced at the next Foreign Affairs Council, on 9 February.
Mrs Mogherini also said that "the third element of our decision, from our action, is to start the preparatory work. So the services, both in the EEAS and in the Commission, are starting the preparatory work on any other appropriate action…ensuring the implementation of the Minsk agreement." She said she had discussed this with the Ukraine President and Prime Minister of Ukraine. She also said she hoped these measures would put pressure "in particular on Russia, to make positive steps and prevent negative steps that we have seen in recent days."
Mrs Mogherini concluded by saying "I cannot say that I'm happy to announce that we have taken these decisions, because I think the situation on the ground in Ukraine is not giving us any space for being happy – but one thing I can be happy of is that we kept our unity. This is, our strength, and we have shown that the European Union is ready to take further measures and to prepare for the measures for the weeks to come, if the situation not only doesn't improve, but gets worse, as was the case in the last days."
In their statement Ministers said "the Council calls on all sides to fully assume their responsibility and to implement their commitments under the Minsk agreements. It calls in particular on the Russian Federation to condemn the separatists' actions. Public statements distorting the reality on the ground, inciting to further violence, as well as publicly humiliating hostages in violation of the international law will not lead to the badly needed de-escalation. All signatories of the Minsk agreements should convene as a matter of urgency within the framework of the Trilateral Contact Group to this effect."
EU Foreign Ministers also said the EU will actively support all diplomatic efforts conducive to creating a new political impetus, notably those currently ongoing under OSCE auspices, and will engage further as necessary. These efforts should be undertaken in good faith and lead to meaningful results. Full implementation of the Minsk agreements as the basis for a sustainable political solution to the conflict, respecting Ukraine's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, must remain the focus of such talks. Progress must be made on the withdrawal of illegal and foreign armed groups, military equipment, fighters and mercenaries, freeing of all hostages, securing the Ukrainian-Russian border with permanent monitoring by the OSCE, as well as early local elections in parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the framework of the Ukrainian law on interim self-governance and an inclusive national dialogue, notably on issues such as constitutional reform and decentralisation.
In their statement Ministers said "the EU will continue to work closely with international partners, including the OSCE and the Council of Europe. The Council reiterates its appreciation of the OSCE's role, in particular through the presence on the ground and objective reporting of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine as well as the efforts of the Special Representative of the Chairperson-in-Office in the Trilateral Contact Group. The Council calls on all parties to ensure free and safe access for the SMM's monitors and unmanned aerial vehicles to all parts of Ukraine, including all parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts and areas along the state border with Russia. The Council reiterates its support for the swift expansion of the SMM to its full capacity and the expansion of the mandate of OSCE Observer Mission at the Russian border checkpoints with a view of re-establishing Ukrainian control of its border with Russia."
It went on say "the Council encourages the Ukrainian authorities to swiftly take the intended legal steps enabling the International Criminal Court to examine the alleged crimes against humanity, committed on the territory of Ukraine in 2014-2015. The Council reiterates the importance of moving forward with the ratification of the Rome Statute by Ukraine, as it has committed to in the Association Agreement."
The Council condemns the raid on the premises of the ATR television, which represents the most recent act of persecution and intimidation of the Crimean Tatar community and another attempt to limit freedom of expression and media on the peninsula. The Council reiterates its call on all parties to provide international human rights actors with full, free and unrestricted access to the whole territory of Ukraine, including Crimea and Sevastopol, the illegal annexation of which the EU condemns and will not recognise.
In their statement the Council "tasked the High Representative / Vice President to step up efforts, in cooperation with Member States and EU institutions, to further improve strategic communication in support of EU policies and to explore options for the establishment of a dedicated communication team to lead these actions. Such efforts should include proactive communication of EU policies, correcting misinformation when it appears, and support for the further development of independent media throughout the region."
It went on to say "the Council notes with concern recent Russian statements questioning the investigation into the downing of flight MH 17. The Council emphasises that this investigation is carried out by a fully independent expert team of international experts in full compliance with ICAO rules and regulations, and calls on all parties to fully cooperate with the investigation."
Ministers went on to say that "the Council reiterates its call on the Government of Ukraine to accelerate the implementation of political and economic reforms. It urges Ukraine to deliver concrete results in key reform areas to reply to the population's aspirations of a democratic and modernised Ukraine, respecting the rights of persons belonging to national minorities. These reforms should stabilize the economic, financial and political situation and anchor the support of the international community, including by developing a climate suitable for investment, notably in view of a possible international conference in support of Ukraine. It welcomes some recent reform steps, including the adoption of the fiscal decentralisation laws. It recalls that a reinvigorated reform process, including the adequate preparation for the future implementation of Title IV of the Association Agreement, will be crucial in view of Ukraine's political association and economic integration with the EU. The Council welcomes the Commission's proposal for macro-financial assistance to Ukraine and looks forward to its swift adoption."
The European Union expresses its grave concern about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Donbas region of Ukraine. It urges all parties to fully respect international law, to protect civilians and humanitarian workers and to ensure unhindered access for humanitarian organisations in line with international humanitarian law and principles.
The EU remains committed to support the most vulnerable population affected by the conflict with now a total of 900,000 internally displaced people and 600,000 refugees who are forced to leave combat zones at short notice and are in dire need of assistance. In this respect, the EU welcomes the recent decision of the Commission together with the Member States, to mobilise additional funding and in-kind assistance to cover most urgent needs, as communicated during the recent visit of Commissioner Stylianides to Ukraine. So far, the EU's humanitarian and early recovery assistance amounts to a total of EUR 95 million. The Council calls on all international donors to respond to the increasing humanitarian needs in a coordinated manner, on the basis of the UN Strategic Response Plan."
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