Speaking at a hearing in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Senate of the U.S. Congress on Wednesday, senior adviser to the U.S. secretary of state for negotiations in the Caucasus Philip Reeker said: “It seems to me that it has evolved to the point where we can, through consensus, end this mandate. However, the mandate itself is quite useful. Although the process [of interaction] of the co-chairs of the Minsk Group is no longer functioning. And we [US administration officials] are directly involved with the parties in their peace process.”
Reeker stressed that while the Minsk Group, as it was known, was not functioning, its mandate remained.
“The purpose of the mandate is, of course, retained. And the OSCE operates on the basis of consensus. I remain in very close contact with my French colleague, with the EU, which is now so [deeply] involved in the region, with other stakeholders, with the OSCE itself,” Reeker said, adding that access to Nagorno-Karabakh for the United States remains “extremely limited.”
About 2,000 peacekeepers from Russia, which co-chairs the Minsk Group along with the United States and France, were deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh in November 2020 following a Moscow-brokered ceasefire agreement that stopped a six-week war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the region.
In his public statements Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has repeatedly said that activities of the Minsk Group were no longer necessary since, as he put it, Baku managed to resolve the Karabakh conflict by defeating Armenia in the war and de-occupying its territories.
Armenia and its international partners, including the Minsk Group co-chair countries, believe that there are still issues to be resolved before a lasting peace can be reached between the conflicting parties.
The work of the Minsk Group was particularly complicated against the background of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
With Moscow finding itself facing growing international isolation for waging a war of aggression against Ukraine, the United States, France and the European Union have stepped up efforts to mediate talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan.