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In defense of own national interests, Azerbaijan defies calls for resuscitation of stillborn OSCE Minsk Group

31 July 2022 09:59 (UTC+04:00)
In defense of own national interests, Azerbaijan defies calls for resuscitation of stillborn OSCE Minsk Group

By Fuad Muxtar-Aqbabali

Offical Baku has once again defied the unfaltering US and French calls for the revival of the stillborn OSCE Minsk Group, set up in the early 1990s, to find a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that lasted nearly 30 years.

Although the group was vested with an international mandate to coerce the occupying Armenia to pull troops out of Azerbaijan’s native lands, each co-chair nation - France, Russia, and the USA - pursued their own strategic and long-term interests and failed to think of the essence of their mandate, thus inflicted unrepairable damage to the post-WWII order on solid columns of which the interstate relations stood.

Azerbaijan finally lost hopes for the OSCE mediators to come up with a concerted option, and the July 2020 Tovuz battles, in which Azerbaijani lands came under insidious missile attacks, were the last straw that broke the camel's back. Azerbaijan took the bull by the horns and succeeded in liberating the occupied lands by force of the triumphant national army in the 44-day-long second Karabakh war. This triumph of the Azerbaijani army and the government has changed the overall gloomy picture around the occupation of the Azerbaijani lands, and consequently, the existence of the Minsk Group became extraneous and beside the point.

In remarks for the latest cabinet meeting, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev unambiguously and perspicuously ruled out resuscitating the Minsk Group.

“Attempts are still being made to revive the now-defunct Minsk group. The Minsk Group has now left the stage. We, a country participating in this process, are saying that there is no need for the Minsk Group. There is no need for a group that has not produced any results in 28 years. This is what we say. To put it mildly, a cold war is going on between co-chairs of the Minsk Group. They have actually admitted that the Minsk Group is not functional anymore. The Russian side says that the Minsk Group is no longer active and that the other co-chairs have put an end to this institution.

“The Armenian side, meanwhile, says every minute that the Minsk Group has done this and that. What does this mean? Simply put, we see a territorial claim against our country behind this. On the one hand, Armenia accepts and acknowledges our five principles, including the mutual recognition of the territorial integrity of countries, the relinquishment of territorial claims against each other, and other provisions, but on the other, it seems that the Minsk Group needs to be kept busy. Then the question is: what should it be doing? The Karabakh conflict has been resolved and the Karabakh issue has been closed. Karabakh is Azerbaijan! I said this, I said this quite rightly, and everyone is saying this now, including Armenia, which is forced to say this, says it unwillingly. All countries and organizations we are discussing this issue with are saying this,” the president said outrightly.

However, the U.S. seems unsatisfied with what the Azerbaijani president said lately.

The United States reiterates its readiness to continue working with Russia in the OSCE Minsk Group for a comprehensive and peaceful settlement of the Karabakh problem, US ambassador to Armenia Lynn Tracy has recently said.

“We have stated that we are ready to use the Minsk Group as a platform. This offer remains open. We have not heard a reaction from Russian colleagues to this proposal. But I think this is the first step, after which we can talk about other steps and ideas,” the ambassador said.

At this point, one cannot but be dumbfounded by this allegation. What or who hindered the OSCE Minsk Group with the proper mandate to live up to the mission and accomplish it as required by international rules and laws?

“We expect that Russia will take the first step, and this will be Russia's return to its participation in this format. We continue to consider the Minsk Group as a format, a platform with an international mandate to discuss the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh,” Lynn Tracy stressed and pretended she did not hear what Russia’s Sergei Lavrov said about the impotent group.

Interestingly, Ambassador Tracy’s statement came in the wake of State Department Spokesperson Ned Price’s press release about the July 25 telephone conversation between Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke today with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. The Secretary and President Aliyev discussed Azerbaijan and Armenia’s historic opportunity to achieve peace in the region. The Secretary reiterated the United States’ offer of assistance in helping facilitate the opening of regional transportation and communication linkages. Secretary Blinken encouraged continued bilateral dialogue, such as the recent meeting between the Azerbaijani and Armenian Foreign Ministers in Tbilisi. The Secretary also reaffirmed support for productive EU-brokered discussions. He conveyed that the United States has been an OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair since 1994 and stands ready to engage bilaterally and with like-minded partners to help Armenia and Azerbaijan find a long-term comprehensive peace.”

In response to mentioning the OSCE Minsk Group in the press release of the US State Department, Azerbaijani media, citing its own “diplomatic sources”, denied that the issue was discussed in the phone conversation.

“The statement of the State Department noted that during the conversation, among other issues, the topic of resuming the participation of the OSCE Minsk Group in the Armenian-Azerbaijani peace process was discussed. According to information from diplomatic sources, there was no mention of the Minsk Group in Aliyev’s conversation with Blinken and the source expressed sincere bewilderment at the fact of such obvious disinformation, calling it extremely inappropriate and even irresponsible. It is incompetent and wrong to discuss the idea of resuscitation of the OSCE Minsk Group that has sunk into oblivion.”

Antony Blinken was quoted as saying in the conversation with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan that the USA is ready to continue its activities as a co-chair of the Minsk Group. Washington does not want to abandon the Minsk Group.

Washington's insistence on the Minsk Group does not promise anything positive for US-Azerbaijani relations, as it serves alien interests and Ambassador Tracy’s latest urging once again confirms it.

On how the United States treats the statements of the Azerbaijani president that the conflict has already been resolved and there is no need for mediators, Ambassador Tracy stressed that, despite these statements, Washington will continue to look for ways to use the Minsk Group format.

“Despite Russia's war against Ukraine, which has attracted a lot of attention in the world, the United States is very attentive to the situation in this region, the situation between Armenia and Azerbaijan. I think it's reflected in the phone calls, and the contacts that we have seen since this administration came into power. This shows the commitment of the U.S., the U.S. Secretary of State, to the desire to avoid the resumption of conflicts, to keep discussions in the spotlight, to make progress, and to do it through diplomacy,” the US ambassador said.

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