The OSCE Minsk Group was created in 1992 by the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), (now Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)) to encourage a peaceful, negotiated resolution to the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Founding and members
The Helsinki Additional Meeting of the CSCE Council on 24 March 1992, requested the Chairman-in-Office to convene as soon as possible a conference on Nagorno-Karabakh under the auspices of the CSCE to provide an ongoing forum for negotiations towards a peaceful settlement of the crisis on the basis of the principles, commitments and provisions of the CSCE. The Conference is to take place in Minsk. Although it has not to this date been possible to hold the conference, the so-called Minsk Group spearheads the OSCE effort to find a political solution to this conflict.
On 6 December 1994, the Budapest Summit of Heads of State or Government decided to establish a co-chairmanship for the process. The Summit participants also expressed their political will to deploy multinational peacekeeping forces as an essential part of the overall settlement of the conflict.
Implementing the Budapest decision, the Hungarian Chairman-in-Office Marton Krasznai issued on 23 March 1995, the mandate for the Co-Chairmen of the Minsk Process.
The main objectives of the Minsk Process are as follows:
- Providing an appropriate framework for conflict resolution in the way of assuring the negotiation process supported by the Minsk Group;
- Obtaining conclusion by the Parties of an agreement on the cessation of the armed conflict in order to permit the convening of the Minsk Conference;
- Promoting the peace process by deploying OSCE multinational peacekeeping forces.
The Minsk Process can be considered to be successfully concluded if the objectives referred to above are fully met.
The Minsk Group is headed by a co-chairmanship consisting of France, Russia and the United States. Furthermore, the Minsk Group also includes the following participating states: Belarus, Finland, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Turkey as well as Armenia and Azerbaijan. On a rotating basis, the OSCE Troika is also a permanent member.
The co-chairmen of the Minsk Group are: Ambassador Stéphane Visconti of France, Ambassador Igor Popov of the Russian Federation, and Ambassador Andrew Schofer of the United States.
The Minsk Conference on Nagorno-Karabakh would be attended by the same participating States that are members of the Minsk Group. The Conference will be headed by the Co-Chairmen of the Minsk Conference.
In early 2001 representatives of Armenia, Azerbaijan, France, Russia and the United States met in Paris and in Key West, Florida. The talks in Key West however were largely kept secret and were not followed upon.
On 7 October 2002 during the CIS summit in Chisinau, the usefulness of the Minsk Group in peace negotiations was brought up for discussion by both the Armenian and the Azerbaijani delegations. According to them the ten-year-long OSCE mediation had not been effective enough.
On 19 December 2015, Serzh Sargsyan and Ilham Aliyev held a summit in Bern, Switzerland under the auspices of the Co-Chairs. The Presidents supported ongoing work to reduce the risk of violence and confirmed their readiness to continue engagement on a settlement.
The last summit between Ilham Aliyev and Serzh Sargsyan took part on October 16, 2017 organized by Minsk Group in Geneva, Switzerland. The presidents admitted to take appropriate actions in order to reinforce the negotiations process and decrease tensions on the Line of Contact.
Azerbaijani criticism of OSCE Minsk Group
Azerbaijanis have long distrusted the OSCE's Minsk group, co-chaired by Russia, France, and the United States. All three countries have large Armenian diasporas, while Russia and Armenia are strategic allies, something Azerbaijan argues is grounds for them to consider it as favouring the Armenians in the conflict. Many Azerbaijanis accuse the Minsk Group of not being effective and fair in their work. Azerbaijani media have accused certain co-chairs (such as Vladimir Kazimirov of Russia and Jacques Faure of France) of "observing the decencies" only as incumbents and going on to become "Armenia's best friends" soon after retiring from their position as mediators.
In 2016, the Minsk Group was criticised for alleged inefficacy by president Ilham Aliyev. It was also criticized by former president of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev.
Possible candidates for co-chairmanship
Some argue that the failure of the Minsk Group has caused the belligerent parties, especially Azerbaijan, to search for more effective mechanisms and new approaches. The replacement of certain co-chairs or the addition of new ones are the most commonly voiced ideas. As the present
mediators would probably not withdraw or terminate the mediation efforts, since their national interests are at stake and they do not want another mediator to undertake initiation, the most feasible proposal is to include new co-chairs in the Minsk Group.
In 2015, Azay Guliyev, an Azerbaijani member of parliament, proposed inclusion of Turkey and Germany to the co-chairmanship institute.
However, according to Matthew Bryza, former U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan, the EU would make more sense because it would represent more of Europe and has experience mediating similar conflicts in the Balkans.
Azerbaijani foreign affairs expert Rusif Huseynov proposed Kazakhstan as an additional co-chair in the Minsk Group. According to him, Kazakhstan, which has turned into a big actor in the post-Soviet area, has titular population that is culturally similar to the Azerbaijanis, but is a member of several Kremlin-led organizations together with Armenia. Therefore, Kazakhstan could be equally close or distant to either warring side. Kazakhstan's previous experience in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict also makes it a good candidate for the mediation process.