By Orkhan Amashov
The OSCE Minsk Group is slowly macerating into nothingness. That it has long been in the propinquity of irreversible termination has been known for some time. Yet it has also been a task of some delicacy and precision to define the exact state of affairs concerning the format's demise, or the nature or mode of its death. The impression given is that it is currently being self-liquidated by means of disintegration.
Writing about the dull, futile routine of the OSCE Minsk Group's shambolic existence, which will go down in the annals of history as one of the finest examples of creative inertia, has never been a prospect that the author of this humble submission found exhilarating. The self-same author is also of the opinion that there is nothing intellectually stimulating in its pathetic end.
However much one may abhor the insufferable rigmarole inextricably associated with the OSCE Minsk Group, one is compelled to acknowledge there is some obdurate intricacy involved in the entire entity which, for the sake of establishing unmistakable clarity as to the precise modus operandi of the process, the logical end of which will be de jure dissolution of the format, needs to be addressed.
Interestingly enough, although it is Baku that is today insisting upon the irrelevance of the OSCE Minsk Group, the first consequential blow was dispatched by Armenia in 2019. Pashinyan's clear renunciation of the terms of the process made Baku conclude that the last vestiges of hope for peaceful settlement had been lost. Then there was the war, which rendered the OSCE Minsk Group utterly irrelevant and archaic.
However, the co-chairs were presented with a chance to recalibrate by means of changing their terms, which they obdurately refused to take into cognisance. Thereafter followed the functional replacement of the OSCE Minsk Group with the trilateral formats mediated by Moscow and Brussels.
Still, purely on a technical level, there was one aspect that had long kept the institution of the co-chairs from falling into the abyss. That was the continued group activity - cooperation between France, the US and Russia - which, despite differing violently on most international subjects, were strangely united in their perspective over Karabakh. The war in Ukraine and the West-Russia confrontation removed this last vestige of credibility.
In view of their disinclination to work with the Kremlin, both Paris and Washington cancelled the format. This has signalled the clinical death of the beleaguered OSCE Minsk Group. Then the question inevitably emerges as to who would deliver a final coup de grâce. After all, an irreversible end requires a mode of firm fixation.
At first glance, the expectation was that Baku's explicit renunciation of the format and subsequent act of disbandment by the OSCE would constitute its end. President Aliyev has consistently been clear on this subject. Whilst addressing the members of the Azerbaijani Diaspora in Shusha on 23 April, he reiterated that the OSCE Minsk Group should have already bid farewell to anything related to Karabakh and ignominiously retired to the obscurity from whence it first emerged.
In fact, the president went so far as to state that 'the group was established not to resolve the problem, but to perpetuate the fact of occupation'. The cumulative effect of President Ilham Aliyev's harsh words amounted to an open death warrant. He could not have been more crystal clear.
Despite this, the outright liquidation by the OSCE has not followed expeditiously. Instead, what we observe now is the process of self-dissolution by means of ending the institution of the co-chairs via disintegration. Since the group activity is now an utter impossibility, the former co-chairs will now act individually as mere representatives of their respective countries.
Washington appointed Andrew Schofer, a former US co-chair, as Senior Advisor on negotiations in the Caucasus. Brice Roquefeuil has been announced as the French ambassador for the EU Eastern Partnership, whereas Igor Khovayev is now a special representative of the challenged Russian Foreign Ministry.
It is now apparent that, in their darkest hour of captivity, the co-chair countries have resorted to a 'face-saving' self-liquidation mode of ending their group activity. The OSCE Minsk Group still exists on paper. Some formal procedure involving the OSCE itself will probably be required. Once that final finishing touch is added, the circumstances will be perfectly propitious to issue a definitive and conclusive obituary.
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