The United States has welcomed an announcement from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that Ukrainian government forces and Russian-led forces in eastern Ukraine have agreed to abide by a 2020 cease-fire.
The U.S. State Department on December 23 applauded efforts by the OSCE to reach the agreement and urged the parties to fully adhere to their commitments.
“We hope the resultant peace will create the diplomatic space necessary to de-escalate regional tensions and provide a positive atmosphere for further discussion,” the State Department said in a statement.
OSCE chairperson-in-office in Ukraine, Mikko Kinnunen, announced the agreement on December 22, calling it “of utmost significance for the people living on both sides of the contact line.”
A statement issued after a meeting of officials from Ukraine, Russia, and the OSCE -- known as the Trilateral Contact Group -- and representatives of the regions in Donetsk and Luhansk controlled by pro-Russian separatists said the participants expressed their “strong determination to fully adhere to the measures to strengthen the ceasefire agreement of 22 July 2020."
The State Department said the U.S. continues to call on Russia to fulfill its commitments under the Minsk agreements to pull back forces and weapons from the line of contact in eastern Ukraine.
The Minsk agreements are aimed at reaching a durable cease-fire in eastern Ukraine leading to steps toward a political solution. Brokered in 2015 by France and Germany in the Belarusian capital, the agreements set a series of cease-fires in eastern Ukraine which have generally failed to hold.
The State Department statement again also called on Russia to pull back forces it has amassed along Ukraine’s borders “and end its aggressive and threatening rhetoric.”
Western countries accuse Russia of having massed around 100,000 troops near Ukraine's borders in a possible prelude to an invasion. Russia denies having any such intention. The United States has warned the Kremlin of unprecedented sanctions should it launch an attack.
Kyiv has been battling a pro-Moscow insurgency in two breakaway regions bordering Russia since 2014, shortly after the Kremlin annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. The conflict has killed more than 13,200 people
Ukraine expressed cautious optimism following the announcement from the OSCE.
"There is a sense of a real possibility for the first time in a long while to ensure a cease-fire on the contact line," Andriy Kostin, a Ukrainian envoy in the talks, said in a statement.
Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde, chairwoman of the OSCE called the agreement on the cease-fire a "small but important first step towards de-escalation along the contact line."