When and why was the OSCE Minsk Group formed?

The Minsk Group was formed by the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE, now OSCE, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) in order to find a political resolution to the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

On March 24, 1992, at a meeting in Helsinki, the OSCE Council asked the Chairman-in-Office to call an immediate conference on Nagorno-Karabakh under its auspices so that a peaceful and negotiated settlement of the crisis could be reached on the basis of the OSCE’s principles, commitments and provisions. The Budapest Summit of Heads of State or Government decided to establish a co-chairmanship for the Minsk Group on December 6, 1994. And three months later, while implementing the Budapest decision on March 23, 1995, the Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE issued the mandate for the Co-Chairmen of the Minsk Group.

Since the involvement of the OSCE Minsk Group in the negotiation process, the parties to the conflict have placed great hopes on this negotiating institution, since it includes not only countries in the region, such as Russia and Turkey, but also European and North American countries, and this has led to the argument that such a broad representation would help end the conflict peacefully. Currently, the Minsk group consists of the following permanent participating states: Belarus, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Finland and the principal parties to the conflict, Azerbaijan and Armenia, and the Co-chairs of the group, Russia, the USA and France, that are called the OSCE “Troika”.

The main objectives of the Minsk Group are summarized 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

As per the OSCE, if the above-mentioned Minsk Group objectives are fully met, then the process can be considered to have concluded successfully.[1]

Since 1997, the Minsk Group has presented three proposals on resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute to the parties to the conflict. These were called the “package deal” proposal of July 1997, the “step by step deal” proposal of December 1997, and the “common state deal” proposal of November 1998.[2] Later, the Minsk Group initiated the Prague Process and the Madrid Principles. However, the parties to the conflict accepted none of the options and methodologies presented by the Minsk Group and the representatives at the high level negotiations failed to achieve a settlement of the conflict. As Volker Jacoby puts it, “none of the proposals could bring the sides close to agreement on status by reconciling the needs of self-determination with territorial integrity to the liking of all parties”.[3] The only achievements in the settlement of the dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh can be considered the ceasefire agreement that was signed in May 1994 in Bishkek and the Moscow Declaration of 2008. However, it should be emphasized that it was Russia alone – and not the OSCE Minsk Group – that brokered the cease-fire and initiated the Moscow Declaration.[4]

[1] All information about the historical background and objectives of the Minsk Group was retrieved from the official webpage of the OSCE – Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe; (http://www.osce.org/mg). Accessed on October 2, 2020.

[2] Jacoby, Volker, “The Role of the OSCE: An Assessment of International Mediation Efforts”, Accord: An International Review of Peace Initiative, Issue 17, 2005, p. 32.

[3] Jacoby, “The Role of the OSCE”, p. 32.

[4] Abilov, Shamkhal, “OSCE Minsk Group: Proposals and Failure, the View from Azerbaijan”, Insight Turkey, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2018, p. 146.