25 April 2018

Wednesday, 20:07



The OSCE’s ministerial convention in Hamburg did not promote a shift in the settlement of the Karabakh conflict in 2016



The Germans often call Hamburg “The gateway to the world” (Tor zur Welt). The gates of an ancient fortress depicted on the coat of arms and flag of the city are the pride for local population.

Long and bright streets, the monuments, which passed the test of history, the church built in the medieval Gothic style, harmoniously side by modern skyscrapers and business centers, leaving a lasting impression to visitors. Strolling through these streets, you can find a lot of interesting things about the lifestyle of local residents. Sometimes what you hear may seem strange to you. For example, it is rumoured that the population of the city enjoys Portuguese furniture while the Japanese mafia controls the street vendors.

Being the second largest city in Germany, Hamburg is also considered the largest seaport in the country and the second in Europe. Last week, it also became the last harbour to which the negotiations on the Karabakh settlement tried to approach this year. Unsuccessfully though…


Important but a late statement

Although the twenty-third session of the OSCE Council of Foreign Ministers as a whole was marked by events Syria, the interest of Azerbaijani journalists to the summit was doubled by the probability of meeting between the Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia in Hamburg. The meeting was announced long before the actual convention but none of the parties were in hurry of confirming the dates. Accordingly, the expectations were low.

The German Foreign Minister and the current OSCE Chairman, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, made the first statement on the settlement of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. But his words were far less encouraging than at the beginning of Berlin's chairmanship in OSCE. When asked about the results of the German chairmanship in terms of the settlement of the conflict, Steinmeier limited himself only to a statement about actual impotence of his organization.

“After the April escalation, the Minsk Group co-chairs are making efforts for the resumption of the negotiating process. But it is not easy to do. It is very difficult to resume the negotiations. We would like to see the parties come to a compromise agreement on the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The parties must have a desire and willingness to achieve this. OSCE cannot oppose the will of the parties to the conflict. OSCE cannot bring stability to the region without the presence of the will of the parties”, said Steinmeier.

However, the statement of the German minister contained a hint of understanding the fair position of Azerbaijan by the international community in this regard. For the first time, Mr. Steinmeier formulated the name of the conflict as a conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. For years, this wording was used exclusively by Baku, trying to draw international attention on the fact that the war in Karabakh was imposed by Armenia, which occupies the lands of Azerbaijan.


Moscow's reluctant reaction

Following Germany, it was the turn of Russia, which, as co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group on the Karabakh settlement, took the initiative to mediate between Armenia and Azerbaijan this year once again. However, after anti-Russian attacks by Ukraine, the US and some European countries, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov looked pretty intense and devoted a large part of the press conference to critical statements addressed to diplomats from the US and Europe.

When asked about Russia’s further steps in the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, Lavrov only referred to the statement of the Foreign Ministers of the OSCE Minsk Group countries: “Russia, together with other countries chairing the OSCE Minsk Group, is trying to reconcile the positions of conflicting parties. We support the settlement of the conflict based on principles supported by the presidents of the three co-chairing countries,” said Mr. Lavrov.


Armenia demonstrates her usual self

Every hour the probability of a meeting between the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia with the participation of foreign ministers of co-chair countries subsided to nothing. According to the Armenian side, the negotiations in the ‘2 + 3’ format did not take place due to the fact that the US Secretary of State John Kerry left the meeting earlier than planned. Official Baku accused Armenia in disrupting the negotiations. However, long before the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting, many were skeptical about the possibility of holding this meeting, which was to be the last in 2016. Majority of analysts agree that to give a new impetus to negotiations is not possible without effective international pressure on Yerevan. Disruption of the Hamburg meeting was just another confirmation of this.


Yet another cancelled meeting...

An analysis of the events and statements shows that the negotiations to settle the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is really going through a deep crisis. Yerevan is trying by all means to refrain from the spirit of agreements reached in Vienna and St. Petersburg after the April escalation on the frontline. Armenia focuses only on security issues and developing confidence-building measures in the conflict zone, ignoring the need to begin meaningful negotiations.

Of course, Azerbaijan cannot be satisfied with this situation, especially in circumstances where the parties has already been presented the opportunity to discuss the issue of withdrawing Armenian troops from the five occupied regions around Nagorno Karabakh at the initial stage, followed by negotiations on complete de-occupation and determination of the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh.

“The statements of Armenia are aimed at the breakdown of negotiations and the efforts of the Minsk Group to resolve the conflict. We and the co-chairs will continue our efforts to resolve the conflict through substantive negotiations, as stated in the statement of foreign ministers of the OSCE Minsk Group countries”, said the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov.

Apparently, this imbalance in approach to the settlement has predestined the fate of the failed Hamburg meeting, as well as the formal character of the meeting between Elmar Mammadyarov and Edvard Nalbandian over a joint dinner.

However, it is impossible to call the last summit of the OSCE Foreign Ministers counterproductive as far as the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict is concerned. In Hamburg, the foreign ministers of mediator countries made a new statement in which they reminded Armenia of the need to resume substantive negotiations based on existing developments.

Meanwhile, the rotations within the Minsk Group continue influencing negotiations. Most recently, a new co-chair from France began his duties, while the position of the former American co-chair, James Warlick, still remains vacant. Given that the US presidential elections were held recently and the structure of the new administration will be known only after January, the US co-chair should be expected by mid-2017. That is, the position of the Trump administration on Karabakh will become clear during the Austrian presidency of the OSCE. It will be led by the novice Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz.


Politics does matter

By the way, Hamburg is also considered a metropolis of German newspapers that have already hurt the future OSCE Chairman. German journalists sneer at Kurz's addiction to fashion. In their opinion, the new Austrian minister is more interested in his public appearance than politics.

Anyway, the Hamburg ministerial summit showed that the OSCE is the world's leading political arena, where it is better not to show off the appearance but political skills. The new policy of the organization in 2017 will largely effect the fate of the Karabakh settlement.