• The Republic of Azerbaijan became participating-State of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) on January 30, 1992;
• On July 8, 1992, the Republic of Azerbaijan acceded to the CSCE Helsinki Final Act of 1975;
Azerbaijan considers the OSCE to be a unique pan-European forum for dialogue and security cooperation. Organization's broad and equal membership as well as consensus-based decision making mechanisms allows Azerbaijan to address its security concerns and try to find common approaches to overcome existing problems.
Azerbaijan is not a member of any regional security or military arrangement or block, except for the OSCE. Thus, it is naturally interested to increase the OSCE's role in pan-European security architecture. Since its accession to the CSCE/OSCE, the Republic of Azerbaijan has successfuly pursued its foreign policy objectives aimed at improving the effectiveness of Organization, adapting it to the challenges of the 21st century and strengthening its operational and functional capacity in all spheres, especially in the field of conflict resolution. Priority attention was given to the issue of upholding and implementing agreed OSCE decisions and commitments undertaken by the participating-States based on the principles of Helsinki Final Act of 1975.
The OSCE and the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
As a result of aggression of the Republic of Armenia against the Republic of Azerbaijan, since 1994 almost one-fifth of internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan remains under the Armenia's occupation and approximately one out of every nine persons in the country is either internally displaced person or refugee, 20,000 people were killed, and about 5,000 citizens of Azerbaijan are still missing. The process of negotiations of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict within the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) has been launched in February of 1992 . At the Additional Meeting of the CSCE Council of Ministers, held in Helsinki on 24 March 1992, a decision to convene as soon as possible a conference on Nagorno-Karabakh in Minsk under the auspices of the CSCE to provide an ongoing forum for negotiations towards a peaceful settlement of the crisis on the basis of the principles, commitments and provisions of the CSCE was adopted.
In general, legal and political basis for the settlement of the conflict were approved in four United Nations Security Council resolutions 822 (1993), 853 (1993), 874 (1993) and 884 (1993) as well as in relevant OSCE documents and decisions. The above-mentioned UN Security Council resolutions were adopted in 1993 in response to the occupation of the territories of Azerbaijan and reaffirmed respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of the international borders of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The resolutions demanded immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of occupying forces from all occupied regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan. None of these demands are implemented by Armenia so far.
According to the decision taken at the CSCE Budapest Summit (5-6 December 1994), Heads of States and Governments of the CSCE participating states set up the office of the Co Chairmanship of the Minsk Conference for the coordination of all mediation efforts within the CSCE framework. The Budapest Summit tasked the CSCE Chairman-in-Office to conduct negotiations aimed at the conclusion of the political agreement on the cessation of the armed conflict, implementation of which would remove the consequences of the conflict and would allow convening the Minsk Conference. The Summit also adopted a decision on the deployment of the CSCE multinational peacekeeping force after the achievement of the agreement between the Parties on the cessation of the armed conflict. To that end, the High Level Planning Group (HLPG) was established in Vienna, which is made up of military experts seconded by the OSCE Member States.
The main tasks of the HLPG are as follows:
- to make recommendations for the Chairman-in-Office on developing as soon as possible a plan for the establishment, force structure requirements and operation of a multinational OSCE peacekeeping force;
- to make recommendations on, inter alia, the size and characteristics of the force, command and control, logistics, allocation of units and resources, rules of engagement and arrangements with contributing States.
On 23 March 1995 the OSCE Chairman-in-Office issued the mandate for the Co-Chairmen of the Minsk Process. The present arrangement for a three-fold Co-Chairmenship of the Minsk Conference was made in 1997, following the Lisbon Summit (since 1992 the Chairmen of the Minsk Conference were Italy in 1992-1993, Sweden in 1994, Russia and Finland in 1995-1996). France, Russia and the US are the Co-Chairmen of the Minsk Process. The current Co-Chairmen of the Minsk Group are Mr. Jacques Faure (France), Mr. Igor Popov (Russia) and Mr. James Warlick (USA). In addtion to the Co-Chairmen, current membership of the Minsk Group include the following OSCE participating States: Belarus, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Turkey, Ireland, Ukraine and Switzerland as well as Armenia and Azerbaijan.
On 28 August 1995 the OSCE Chairman-in-Office appointed a Personal Representative of the Chairman-in-Office on the Conflict dealt with by the OSCE Minsk Conference. Since 1 January 1997 Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk (Poland) holds this position. The Chairman-in-Office authorized his Personal Representative to implement the following duties:
- represent the OSCE Chairman-in-Office in issues related to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, assist the CiO in achieving an agreement on the cessation of the armed conflict and in creating conditions for the deployment of an OSCE peace-keeping operation, in order to facilitate a lasting comprehensive political settlement of the conflict in all its aspects;
- report on all aspects of his activities to the CiO of the OSCE, report through the CiO to the Co-Chairmanship of the OSCE Minsk Conference and, as appropriate, to the Minsk Group, and receive instructions from the CiO;
- assist the Co-Chairmanship at its request;
- assist the High Level Planning Group in planning an OSCE peace-keeping operation in accordance with the Budapest Summit Decisions;
- assist the parties in implementing and developing confidence-building, humanitarian and other measures facilitating the peace process, in particular by encouraging direct contacts;
- co-operate, as appropriate, with representatives of the United Nations and other international organizations operating in the area of conflict.
One of the main fields of the PR’s current activity is to monitor the cease-fire regime established by the Parties to the conflict in May 1994. To this end the Personal Representative on a regular basis (usually twice a month) visits various sectors of border between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia as well as the Line of Contact between Azerbaijani and Armenian armed forces. According to a memorandum of understanding signed with the Government of Georgia, the Personal Representative established a separate office in Tbilisi, Georgia, as a basis and headquarters. In order to be able to conduct the operational activities defined in the mandate, the Representative also has 5 field assistants located in Baku, Yerevan and Khankendi (administrative centre of the Nagorno-Karabakh region of the Republic of Azerbaijan).
At the OSCE Lisbon Summit, which took place on 2-3 December 1996, the following principles of settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict were recommended by the then Chairman-in-Office and the and Co-Chairmen of the Minsk Group. These principles were supported by all the OSCE participating States, except Armenia:
- territorial integrity of the Republic of Armenia and the Azerbaijan Republic;
- legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh defined in an agreement based on self-determination which confers on Nagorno-Karabakh the highest degree of self-rule within Azerbaijan;
- guaranteed security for Nagorno-Karabakh and its whole population, including mutual obligations to ensure compliance by all the Parties with the provisions of the settlement.
Since 1997 the negotiations were suspended and substituted by shuttle visits of the Co-Chairmen to Armenia, Azerbaijan and conflict zone. Various proposals submitted by the Co-Chairmen to both sides of the conflict were either accepted or rejected. In order to give an additional impetus to the negotiations, in April of 1999 direct talks between the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia took place. In 2002, two meetings of the special representatives of the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan took place near Prague. Since 2004 the direct talks between the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan have started within the so-called “Prague Process”.
On January 30 - February 5, 2005, the “OSCE Minsk Group Fact-Finding Mission on Settlements in the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan” (Aghdam, Jabrayil, Fizuli, Zangilan, Gubadly, Kalbajar and Lachin) took place.The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, proceeding from the conclusions contained in the Mission's report, emphasized inadmissibility of changes in the demographic composition of the region and urged appropriate international agencies to conduct needs assessment for resettlement of the population located in the occupied territories and return of the internally displaced persons to their places of permanent residence. The report and recommendations of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs that were based on it, laid down a solid basis for further consideration and resolution of the problem. In paralel to this, the issue of resettlement of Armenians in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan was considered at the session of the United Nations General Assembly.
During the period of June-September 2006, international community's attention was drawn to massive fires in the occupied territories, which had resulted in considerable damage to the environment and bio-diversity of occupied Azerbaijani territories. Concerns over the impact of fires on conflict-affected territories also led to discussions in the UN General Assembly resulting in the adoption of the UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/60/285 “The Situation in the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan” (7 September 2006), which stressed the necessity to urgently conduct an environmental operation to suppress the fires in the affected territories and to overcome their detrimental consequences.
Proceeding from the provisions of the Resolution, as the first step in preparation to the environmental operation, on 3-13 October 2006 the OSCE led Environmental Assessment Mission to the fire-affected territories in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh region with a mandate to assess the short-term and long-term impact of the fires on the environment in the fire affected territories, to make recommendations on how to counteract any detrimental impact of the fires and on an environmental operation. The Report of the OSCE-led Environmental Assessment Mission, which had been submitted to the OSCE Chairman-in-Office by the end of November 2006 and then, as foreseen in the Resolution, forwarded to the United Nations Secretary-General, proved the occurrence, large-scale spread and significant impact of severe fires in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan on people, economy and the environment. It made recommendations on how to rehabilitate the fire-affected areas and outlined a series of actions and measures to prevent the recurrence of such fires.
On 2 November 2008, the Presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan and the Russian Federation signed a Joint Declaration in Moscow. This document states inter alia that the signatories “will work towards improving the situation in the South Caucasus and establishing stability and security in the region through a political settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, on the basis of the principles and norms of international law and the decisions and documents adopted in this framework, which will create favorable conditions for economic development and comprehensive cooperation in the region”. Thus, the heads of three states underlined that the principles and norms of international law and the decisions and documents adopted in this framework, which undoubtedly includes in the first place the UN Security Council resolutions of 1993 as well as the UN General Assembly resolutions of 2006 and 2008, are the basis of a political settlement of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
In 2010 the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs conducted a Field Assessment Mission to the seven occupied territories of Azerbaijan surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh (the mission not conducted in the occupied region of Nagorno-Karabakh) to assess the overall situation there, including humanitarian and other aspects. The Co-Chairs were joined by the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office and his team, which provided logistical support, and by two experts from the UNHCR and one member of the 2005 OSCE Fact-Finding Mission. According to the report of mission, in traveling more than 1,000 kilometers throughout the territories, the Co-Chairs saw stark evidence of the disastrous consequences of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the failure to reach a peaceful settlement. Towns and villages that existed before the conflict are abandoned and almost entirely in ruins. While no reliable figures exist, the overall population is roughly estimated as 14,000 persons, living in small settlements and in the towns of Lachin and Kalbajar. The Co-Chairs assess that there has been no significant growth in the population since 2005. The settlers, for the most part ethnic Armenians who were relocated to the territories from elsewhere in Azerbaijan, live in precarious conditions, with poor infrastructure, little economic activity, and limited access to public services. Many lack identity documents. For administrative purposes, the seven territories, the former NK Oblast, and other areas have been incorporated into eight new districts. The harsh reality of the situation in the territories has reinforced the view of the Co-Chairs that the status quo is unacceptable, and that only a peaceful, negotiated settlement can bring the prospect of a better, more certain future to the people who used to live in the territories and those who live there now.
The conflict settlement issue is being regularly addressed at all OSCE Summits and Ministerial Council’s meetings, which stress generally the importance of the peace dialogue and efforts to achieve an early settlement of the conflict based on the norms and principles of international law.
Although the mediation efforts conducted for already quite a long period of time within the framework of the OSCE have not always been consistent and have yet to yield results, Azerbaijan continues to be committed to solving the conflict peacefully and in a constructive manner.