“We are concerned by the fact that the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group are still not able to visit the region, familiarize themselves with the situation there and map out steps that will help the parties establish people-to-people contacts and resolve humanitarian and some other issues,” Alexander Lukashevich, the Russian ambassador to the OSCE, told the RIA Novosti agency on Monday.
The co-chairs had for decades travelled to Karabakh and met with its ethnic Armenian leadership during regular tours of the conflict zone. The visits practically stopped with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent outbreak of the Armenian-Azerbaijani war.
The mediators planned to resume their shuttle diplomacy after organizing talks between the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers in New York in September. The trip has still not taken place, however.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian suggested in November that it is blocked by Azerbaijan. The Russian Foreign Ministry called afterwards for a “quick resumption of visits to Karabakh by the Minsk Group co-chairs.”
In a joint statement issued on December 7, the mediators urged the conflicting sides to allow them to visit the conflict zone “as soon as possible” and “assess the situation on the ground first-hand.”
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev mocked the mediating troika and questioned the wisdom of the Minsk Group’s continued existence last week. He again claimed that that Baku’s victory in the 2020 war ended the Karabakh conflict.
“They must not deal with the Karabakh conflict because that conflict has been resolved,” Aliyev told Azerbaijani television.
“If one of the parties says that the conflict has been resolved, there is no room for mediation,” he said. “Our position has been communicated to them.”
Armenia as well as the United States and France have publicly insisted that the conflict remains unresolved. Russian officials have made similar, albeit more implicit, statements.
Pro-government and opposition members of the Armenian parliament suggested on Tuesday that Lukashevich’s comments were a response to Aliyev.
“Azerbaijan cannot avoid peace talks,” said Anush Beghloyan of the ruling Civil Contract party. “The international community will not deem the Karabakh issue closed because Azerbaijan tried to solve it by force.”
Tigran Abrahamian, a deputy from the opposition Pativ Unem bloc, said the Russian diplomat spoke after official Yerevan’s failure to react to Aliyev’s claims.
“I find it important that Russia sees the continuity of the process in the Minsk Group framework,” Abrahamian told reporters.
In Stepanakert, a senior Karabakh official, Artak Beglarian, said that Baku is continuing to object to the mediators’ renewed visits to the disputed territory.
“I think that after Aliyev’s recent statements and mockery of the Minsk Group co-chairs it’s about time these [co-chair] countries … not only visited Artsakh without taking into account Azerbaijan’s opinion but also recognized Artsakh’s independence or at least the realization of the Artsakh people’s right to self-determination,” he said.