Moscow: The conflict in eastern Ukraine must not escalate and security must be ensured for Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe observers in the region, Italy’s Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said here on Thursday.
On the final day of his first trip to the region as OSCE chairman, Alfano told his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov: “The Ukraine crisis is a priority for Italy”.
“Further escalation of the conflict must be prevented and the personal safety of OSCE observers must be guaranteed.
“Italy intends to nurture inclusive dialogue during its chairmanship of OSCE…whose mission is to keep open an exchange of views between east and west,” he added.
Lavrov said Russia welcomed Italy’s “highly constructive” plans for its chairmanship of OSCE this year.
“From your statements, it is clear that you are trying to tackle problems through inclusive dialogue, not confrontation – I esteem this position,” he told Alfano.
During his visit to Ukraine earlier this week, Alfano unveiled a two million euro humanitarian aid package for eastern Ukraine’s population.
The aid package includes 500,000 euros for food rations and basic winter necessities delivered by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and a 500,000 euro loan to the UN children’s charity UNICEF to raise awareness of the dangers of landmines.
A further million euros of the humanitarian aid is earmarked for health and civilian protection provided by the Red Cross as part of the package.
Strengthening the shaky ceasefire and helping boost political dialogue are the main objectives in eastern Ukraine, Alfano said in Brussels on Monday ahead of his visit.
Ending the four-year conflict in and around Ukraine is a priority, Alfano told an OSCE meeting in Vienna on January 11.
Since April 2014, more than 10,300 people have been killed by fighting between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists who control parts of the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Cease-fire deals announced as part of the Minsk accords – September 2014 and February 2015 pacts aimed at resolving the conflict – have failed to hold.