VIENNA Members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) failed again on Wednesday to agree on sending monitors to Ukraine, raising doubts about whether a deal was possible at all.
Some diplomats accredited to the Vienna-based security watchdog spoke of the difficulty posed by Russia's effective veto of action by the 57-member group, which has a principle of consensus.
Ukraine and Western countries want OSCE monitors deployed in a country locked in a confrontation with Russia over Moscow's decision to absorb the breakaway Crimean peninsula.
But talks on Wednesday at OSCE headquarters broke up again without a deal.
"This is the third time that a text has been presented to which only one state objects - and that is the Russian Federation," U.S. Ambassador Daniel Baer told reporters.
"Meanwhile they continue to say that they understand the urgency of deploying monitors, that they support it, and so they are talking out of both sides of their mouth."
He said the Russian delegation had proposed amendments to a draft accord many times but, once they were agreed, then come back with more.
"It challenges the credibility of their commitment to a constructive approach. We will have to explore other approaches in the meanwhile," he said.
The Russian delegation was not immediately available for comment.
"The negotiations about a mission are deadlocked because of Russian obstruction. I'm inclined to declare them (the negotiations) dead," one Western diplomat said.
"Now there will be attempts to find possibilities for an observer mission in Ukraine that doesn't require Russian approval, for example an EU monitoring mission," he said, suggesting the blockade could sharpen Europe's attitude toward Russia when EU leaders meet on Thursday and Friday.
U.S. envoy Baer said he had asked the OSCE chair to explore a provision for the group to adopt measures by less than consensus.
OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier called this avenue "an old OSCE rule which is controversial in itself".
The OSCE has played a significant role in monitoring human rights and other issues in many places in the past - for example in the countries that emerged from the bloody collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. But diplomats say its work in recent years has been hobbled by renewed East-West tension.
(Reporting by Michael Shields, Fredrik Dahl and Derek Brooks; editing by Andrew Roche)