The head of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) says stepped up international diplomacy is needed to prevent the situation in Ukraine from becoming an intractable conflict.
“The risk of the frozen conflict remains, if there is no progress at the political level,” Lamberto Zannier told VOA. “The more this drags on, in a way, the more likelihood that solving the problems becomes more difficult instead.”
The OSCE has deployed about 700 international observers to Ukraine, the majority to the country's east to monitor a shaky cease-fire between Kyiv and Russian-backed rebels.
April saw the most violations to the truce since August, while many heavy weapons that were previously at permanent storage sites and holding areas were reported missing and have turned up in use at the line of contact. The OSCE brokered a cease-fire over the Orthodox Easter holiday earlier this month, which briefly calmed the situation.
“We see now a slowly increasing number of violations again,” Zannier said. “So we are trying to invest more in the political process and invest more in establishing a mechanism on the ground involving the Ukrainian and Russian military to help us de-escalate the situation.”
He said that constant engagement has produced some progress, but it has not been sufficient to solve the issues on the ground.
The OSCE chief also spoke of the need for European solidarity – on the migration and refugee crisis, fighting terrorism and in the face of a possible EU exit by Britain.
Zannier said if Britain’s June referendum leads to a “Brexit” it would be bad for Europe.
“It will weaken Europe economically and also potentially in security terms,” Zannier said. “It’s a very important player in Europe.”
He discouraged undermining European institutions in difficult times, “We need strong multi-lateral structures. The EU is, I would say, one of them.”
He said he hopes British voters will recognize that risk. “I hope they will stay in,” he said.