By | Rachel Brooks
November 17, 2020
Image above: “OSCE PA advisory group meets in Minsk, 16 November 2019” by oscepa is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
The United States State Secretary Mike Pompeo has made a series of visits over the last week, to Istanbul, and to Tbilisi, Georgia. Likewise, within the last few hours, he urged the Minsk Group members to be more proactive and stated that the U.S. would lead the world in response.
“When humanitarian disaster strikes, the U.S. leads the world in responding. Today, we announced aid for people affected by the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. We urge Armenia and Azerbaijan to re-engage with the @OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs for a lasting solution,” tweeted Pompeo.
Yet, the seeming biases presented by the Minsk Group, as well as an apparent low prioritization of issues in the region by other members have led the world to question Minsk’s efficacy for a lasting solution.
The Second Nagorno-Karabakh War shook lose a global understanding of Caucasus diplomacy. The changing geopolitics of the Caucasus have likewise altered the way that global roles have been perceived. With France’s leanings toward Armenia and its perceived global ambition, the future of the OSCE Minsk Group stands in question. The world had questioned the U.S. previously withdrawn status, but as the U.S. once more addresses the issues within the Minsk Group, the changing rhetoric of South Caucasus diplomacy is once more on the discussion table.
Minsk Group neutrality in question
A month into the conflict, the TRT World broadcast interviewed Khazar Ibrahim, the Azerbaijani Ambassador to Turkey. Ibrahim noted that diplomacy hopes were dashed by the reality of Armenia’s position as the aggressor in the conflict. Armenia has violated the ceasefire agreements of the previous 26 years.
The permanence of the current peace agreement is cemented by heavy-handed actions by Russia and the new presence of Turkey. This came in the vacuum of the Minsk Group, which constitutes Russia, Armenia, and the United States. Ibrahim stated that there is “public and oftentimes over support” from these three countries for the Armenian side, despite the fact that Armenia is and was the documented aggressor of the conflict.
Ibrahim called the issue of attacking cities and civilian settlements far away from the conflict region a “humanitarian catastrophe.” He cited that the international community needed to stand up against this crime against humanity. The UN, he stated, must become more involved as questions of the Minsk Group’s credibility were raised.
In response to such criticism, France 24 aired a broadcast featuring Armen Georgian, an international affairs editor with the network. The questions presented in this broadcast were whether or not the Minsk Group had any capacity to shed its reputation as “ineffective.”
The Minsk Group, according to Georgian, states that the Minsk Group, in addition to its co-chairs, also has permanent members. Turkey is a permanent member of this group. This was a reason why Azerbaijani President Aliyev requested Turkey’s presence in previous ceasefire talks within the Minsk Group.
Georgian noted that in the recent conflict Armenia and Azerbaijan tried to pressure the negotiation status of the Minsk Group. Azerbaijan worked to promote Turkey’s membership status in the group, or to reach out to other diplomatic channels that would allow Turkey to have a voice as a diplomatic mediator, being considered a “brother” nation of Azerbaijan because of shared Turkic heritage. In the process of this pressure, Armenia likewise tried to appeal to the perceived biases of the three seated co-chairs. Hanging in the balance was the attempt to either sideline the OSCE Minsk Group or to upgrade its current function. Neither side was pleased with the use of the Minsk Group during the 2020-era conflict.
Seated Minsk Group members, especially Russia, would be wary of the involvement of Turkish influence. The west likewise holds biases against the Turkish government and considered the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to be a proxy war drawing Turkey and Russia to the region.
Armenia was primarily dissatisfied with a ceasefire that included preconditions. Azerbaijan argued that a ceasefire that did not include preconditions would lead ultimately to a deeper stalemate in a conflict that had been perpetually complicated for at least 30 years.
The ultimate outcome of the ceasefire, when Russia took matters into its own hands effectively, has led to a political catalyst and outright chaos on the Armenian side.
In the process of peace mitigation, lobbies within the United States and France continue to show biases to the Armenian side of the conflict. The U.S. has remained fairly silent in the peace process. The United States does not appear to directly engage with Azerbaijan as the victor of the conflict, nor does it appear to take a position in the normalization process for Armenia’s political chaos.
Despite this, diplomatic relations appear to be following through. Today, Al Jazeera reported that Armenia and Azerbaijan have worked to repatriate the remains of those killed in combat. This was arranged as part of the mitigated peace deal.
Despite reports that Russia is grabbing the Southern Caucasus in an occupation strategy, The Jerusalem Post noted that Russia does not appear to prioritize the post-war status. It is this apparent world neglect, coming from the Minsk Group chair themselves, that drives the sense of ineffectual diplomacy for the Caucasus.
The three chairs will be held under intense scrutiny as the dialogue for lasting change and recognition of cyclic problems shifts with an Azerbaijani victory. While seeming preoccupied, Russian presence in the territory invites an escalation of world geopolitical discussion to prevent other crisis issues within the region.