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Why did Azerbaijan accuse the OSCE Minsk Group of being biased in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?

The usefulness of the OSCE Minsk Group, particularly of the co-chair countries (Russia, the USA and France as peace brokers in the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh), was raised for discussion by the parties to the conflict and by academicians. It was argued that when they assumed the role of Minsk Group co-chairs, it became apparent that the aim of the OSCE “Troika” was to maintain stability in order to preserve their national interests in the region, rather than to provide a forum for the ongoing negotiation process, and bring about a peaceful settlement of the conflict.

By participating in the negotiation process Russia wanted to strengthen its hegemony as one of the main regional players and play an active role in the regional issues in order to persuade national interests in its “Near Abroad”.[1] This became particularly apparent from the beginning: while Russia was involved in the Minsk Group mediation process, it also intended to prevent any international institution from hampering its interests in the region. The development of unilateral mediation attempts and the signing of the cease-fire between Azerbaijan and Armenia under the auspices of Russia are clear examples of the Russian aim.[2] On the other hand, the interests of the USA in the region were linked to its hopes of expanding its political and economic influence there and diversifying its oil production and transportation routes.[3] After 9/11, the USA started to view the region as a significant geo-political area regarding its interests in the Middle East. It therefore began to intensify its military presence in the region and carry out military cooperation activities with the new independent states there.[4] France, meanwhile, supported the interests of the European Union because “some kind of European intercession was required to resolve the region’s major economic problems”.[5]

Moreover, large Armenian Diasporas exist in these countries, and they sided with Armenia during the Nagorno-Karabakh war. Russia, which is Armenia’s main political and military ally, was not only the main supporter of it during the Nagorno-Karabakh war, it was also directly involved in occupying the territories of Azerbaijan and massacring civilian Azerbaijanis in Khojali. It is also noteworthy that Armenia is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), an intergovernmental military alliance that was initiated by Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union with the aim of upholding its political and military interests in the region. In addition to this, Russia also has a military base in the Gyumri region of Armenia, next to the Azerbaijan border. It was also said that Russia would set up a joint air force in Armenia within the framework of the CSTO.[6]

Meanwhile, the US government backed Armenia during the Nagorno-Karabakh war and described Azerbaijan as an “aggressor” country. With the support of the Armenian lobby, the US Congress approved Section 907, which restricted US government assistance to Azerbaijan through the FREEDOM Support Act. This unfair decision by the US Congress was in force until 2001, when US president George W. Bush decided to waive it, due to its military cooperation with Azerbaijan. However, it does not mean that the Congress will not reassert its policy on Section 907 of FREEDOM Support Act. Regarding France, it presented itself as the best supporter of Armenia in its “holy war” to recognize the so-called “Armenian Genocide”.

Because of these facts, Azerbaijan raised the issue of the impartiality of the Minsk Group, since it was co-chaired by Russia, France and the USA, countries where the large Armenian Diasporas enjoy great influence in the respective countries’ governments. Therefore, Baku sees the Minsk Group countries as “backstabbing” that side with Armenia.[7] In this light, Azerbaijan has urged the Minsk Group either to insist that the co-chair countries avoid bias in resolving the conflict and ensure impartiality by the mediator countries, which is one of the main principles of mediation, or to guarantee a decent balance in order to preserve the interests of the countries involved in the conflict equally.

[1] Cornell, Svante E., Small Nations and Great Powers: Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict in the Caucasus (Routledge Curzon, 2001), p. 99.

[2] Cornell, Small Nations and Great Powers, p. 99.

[3] Jacoby, Volker, “The Role of the OSCE: An Assessment of International Mediation Efforts”, Accord: An International Review of Peace Initiative, Issue 17, 2005, p. 31.

[4] Laruelle, Marlene and Peyrouse, Sebastien, “The Militarization of the Caspian Sea: “Great Games” and “Small Games” Over the Caspian Fleets”, China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly, Vol. 7, No. 2, p. 29.

[5] Abilov, Shamkhal, “OSCE Minsk Group: Proposals and Failure, the View from Azerbaijan”, Insight Turkey, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2018, p. 156.

[6] Kucera, Joshua, “Russia Announces Upgrades To CSTO Military Presence In Armenia”, EURASIANET, July 4, 2013; http://www.eurasianet.org/node/67216. Accessed on October 2, 2020.

[7] Ismailzade, Fariz, “Azerbaijan’s Relations with Minsk Group Hit New Low”, Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vol. 5, Issue 57, 2008.