Q: On 9 March, the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group issued a statement urging the sides to refrain from demanding unilateral changes to the format of negotiations without consent of the other party. Earlier, on 6 March, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry made a comment on the impossibility of changing the negotiation format approved by the 1992 Helsinki decision of the OSCE Ministerial Council, without reaching consensus of the OSCE participating States. In addition, according to official Baku, “the decision provides that Armenia and Azerbaijan act as parties to the conflict, while the Armenian and Azerbaijani communities of Nagorno-Karabakh do so as interested parties”. How would you comment on these statements?
A: It is not the first time that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan demonstrates a lack of institutional memory and complete ignorance of the process of peaceful settlement of the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict, as well as the documents adopted within this framework.
First, the decision of 24 March 1992 of the CSCE Helsinki Additional Meeting does not mention any communities. The document lists as interested parties “elected and other representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh”.
Secondly, the issue of the format and status of the parties to negotiations has been the subject of lengthy discussions that went through a certain path of development. As early as in 1993, in the documents discussed within the framework of the Minsk process, Nagorno Karabakh was indicated as a full party to the conflict. Final clarity on this issue was introduced at the CSCE/OSCE Summit in Budapest in 1994. According to the concluding document of the Summit, the parties to the conflict are those who confirmed the cease-fire agreed on 12 May 1994. The agreement on full cease-fire and cessation of hostilities was concluded between Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan and Armenia. On 26-27 July 1994, Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed an additional agreement, in which they confirmed “their commitments to the cease-fire until the conclusion of a large political agreement”.
After the Budapest Summit, in response to attempts by the Azerbaijani side to speculate again on the topic of the parties to the conflict, the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Hungarian Foreign Minister László Kovács made a special statement at the meeting of the OSCE Senior Council in Prague on 31 March 1995, where he “confirmed previous OSCE decisions on the status of the parties, i.e. the participation of the two State parties to the conflict and of the other conflicting party (Nagorno-Karabakh) in the whole negotiation process, including in the Minsk Conference”.
The Prague Summary of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office is very clear and leaves no room for arbitrary and tendentious interpretations by the Azerbaijani side of OSCE decisions regarding the negotiation format.
The authorities of both the Republic of Artsakh and the Republic of Armenia do not raise an issue of creating a new, non-agreed format of negotiations. It is about restoring the full-fledged negotiation format as set out in the OSCE Budapest Summit decision of 1994. This decision was approved by consensus by Heads of State and Government of the OSCE participating States, including Azerbaijan and the Minsk Group co-chairing countries.
We have repeatedly pointed out that the issue of restoring the trilateral format of negotiations is a kind of litmus test, demonstrating the degree of readiness for real progress in the peaceful settlement of the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict. Opposition to restoring the most effective negotiation format can be interpreted as a commitment to the status quo.
It is regrettable that the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group do not show due principledness to restore the trilateral negotiation format consistent with the decision of the OSCE’s highest body.