Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister: The OSCE Minsk Group has ceased its activities

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, a format created to mediate peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan , ceased operations.

Lavrov made the statement after meeting with his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov on Friday.

“We have not discussed the OSCE Minsk Group as such because it has ceased its activities. It happened on the initiative of the American and French participants,” Lavrov said during a press briefing in Baku on June 24.

For his part, Minister Bayramov said the interaction format between the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group was completely paralyzed from February 2022.

“In this situation, Azerbaijan’s position is that the priority for us, it is about achieving a long-term, lasting and lasting peace in the region. And from this prism, the process cannot be held hostage to the format. Of course, we cannot focus on a non-existent format,” stressed the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister.

Jeyhun Bayramov said the Azerbaijani side did not refuse contact with the Minsk group, adding that “we expect the Minsk group to see its future role.”

In the early 1990s, the OSCE Minsk Group assumed the role of mediator in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Karabakh (Garabagh) region of the latter. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Armenia launched a full-scale war against Azerbaijan, which ended with a ceasefire in 1994. The bloody war led to occupation 20% of the internationally recognized lands of Azerbaijan by Armenia. More than 30,000 ethnic Azerbaijanis have been killed and a million more expelled from their lands in a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing led by Armenia.

At the height of the war in 1993, the United Nations adopted four resolutions demanding the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian forces from the occupied territories. However, Armenia failed to comply with the resolutions, dashing hopes for a political solution and simultaneously preparing for the next military phase of the conflict.

Diplomats from the United States, France and Russia co-chaired the Minsk Group to lead international efforts to find a lasting solution to what was once one of the most dangerous regional conflicts. Despite decades of shuttle diplomacy by the group’s co-chairs, negotiations have remained dead in the water without any breakthrough.

On September 27, 2020, the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict took a violent turn when Armenian forces deployed in occupied Azerbaijani lands shelled military positions and civilian settlements of Azerbaijan. During counterattack operations that lasted 44 days, Azerbaijani forces liberated more than 300 settlements, including the towns of Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli and Shusha, from an illegal Armenian occupation that lasted almost 30 years. The war ended with the signing of a statement on November 10, 2020, under which Armenia also returned the occupied districts of Agdam, Kalbajar and Lachin to Azerbaijan.

Before the 2020 war, the unproductive activity of the Minsk group repeatedly triggered a violent reaction from the Azerbaijani authorities. Shortly after the war, President Aliyev said the Group failed to resolve the conflict despite its internationally recognized mandate.

Recently, the President of Azerbaijan said that it was time to “say goodbyeto the Minsk group.

“The Minsk group is dysfunctional. Therefore, stimulus attempts are also counterproductive. I think the best way is to say goodbye to the Minsk group, not thank you and goodbye, but only goodbye, because 30 years is enough. It’s time to retire,” he told an international conference in Baku earlier this month.

The fate of the Minsk Group was reportedly questioned by the mediating countries, namely the United States and France, in April 2022. At the time, Washington and Paris rejected to continue cooperation with Moscow within the framework of the “troika” format due to the invasion of Ukraine. The decision also derailed Armenia’s attempts to involve the Group in peace agreement talks with Azerbaijan.

Sara H. Byrd