When and why was the OSCE Minsk Group formed?

The Minsk Group was formed by the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE, now OSCE, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) to find a political resolution to the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

On March 24, 1992, at a meeting in Helsinki, the OSCE Council asked the Chairman-in-Office to call an immediate conference on Nagorno-Karabakh under its auspices so that a peaceful and negotiated settlement of the crisis could be reached based on the OSCE’s principles, commitments, and provisions. The Budapest Summit of Heads of State or Government decided to establish a co-chairmanship for the Minsk Group on December 6, 1994. Furthermore, three months later, while implementing the Budapest decision on March 23, 1995, the Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE issued the mandate for the Co-Chairs of the Minsk Group.

Since the involvement of the OSCE Minsk Group in the negotiation process, the parties to the conflict have placed great hopes on this negotiating institution since it includes not only countries in the region, such as Russia and Turkey, but also European and North American countries. This fact has led to the argument that such a broad representation would help end the conflict peacefully. Thus, the Minsk group was formed with the following permanent participating states: Belarus, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Finland and the principal parties to the conflict, Azerbaijan and Armenia, and the Co-chairs of the group, Russia, the USA, and France, that are called the OSCE “Troika.”

The main objectives of the Minsk Group are summarized as follows:

  • Providing an appropriate framework for conflict resolution in the way of assuring the negotiation process supported by the Minsk Group;
  • Obtaining conclusion by the Parties of an agreement on the cessation of the armed conflict in order to permit the convening of the Minsk Conference;
  • Promoting the peace process by Deploying OSCE multinational peacekeeping forces.

As per the OSCE, if the above-mentioned objectives of the Minsk Group were fully met, the process could be considered to have concluded successfully.[1]

Since 1997, the Minsk Group has presented three proposals on resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute to the parties to the conflict. These were called the “package deal” proposal of July 1997, the “step by step deal” proposal of December 1997, and the “common state deal” proposal of November 1998.[2] Later, the Minsk Group initiated the Prague Process and the Madrid Principles. However, the parties to the conflict accepted none of the options and methodologies presented by the Minsk Group, and the representatives at the high-level negotiations failed to achieve a settlement of the conflict. As Volker Jacoby puts it, “none of the proposals could bring the sides close to agreement on status by reconciling the needs of self-determination with territorial integrity to the liking of all parties.”[3]

The only achievements in settling the dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh can be considered the ceasefire agreement signed in May 1994 in Bishkek, the Moscow Declaration of 2008, and the Trilateral Statement of 2020. However, it should be emphasized that Russia alone – and not the OSCE Minsk Group – brokered the ceasefire, initiated the Moscow Declaration and the Trilateral Statement.[4]

[1] All information about the historical background and objectives of the Minsk Group was retrieved from the official webpage of the OSCE – Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe; http://www.osce.org/mg. Accessed on December 2, 2022.

[2] Jacoby, Volker, “The Role of the OSCE: An Assessment of International Mediation Efforts,” Accord: An International Review of Peace Initiative, Issue 17, 2005, p. 32.

[3] Jacoby, “The Role of the OSCE,” p. 32.

[4] Abilov, Shamkhal, “OSCE Minsk Group: Proposals and Failure, the View from Azerbaijan,” Insight Turkey, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2018, p. 146.