P. Terrence Hopmann
Johns Hopkins University – Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS)
APSA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper
American Political Science Association 2013 Annual Meeting
This paper evaluates the role of the “Minsk Group” of the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Europe as a mediator in the conflict involving the former Soviet region of Nagorno-Karabakh in the southern Caucasus. Currently co-chaired by the United States, France, and the Russian Federation, the Minsk Group has tried unsuccessfully to bring about a resolution of this protracted conflict since 1992. This paper thus examines the mediation efforts of the Minsk Group in an effort both to explain why it has failed thus far to find a solution to this conflict, as well as to suggest possible paths for resolution.
After more than 20 years, mediation efforts have consistently failed at various stages of the negotiation process, beginning in the initial stages of war in 1992-94 and subsequently during a lengthy cease-fire in which all efforts fell short of resolving the underlying issues of conflict and identifying a long-term solution acceptable to all parties, namely Azerbaijan, Armenia, and the unrecognized and self-proclaimed “Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh.” I argue that the mediation process has been severely hampered by the changing relationships involving three primary factors:
1) Changing power relationships among the parties to the conflict and among external parties that have constituted the primary mediation body, that is the so-called “Minsk Group.”
2) Shifting interests among the parties involving politics, economics, and legal questions as well as changing interests and engagement by outside parties ostensibly seeking to mediate a fair and durable solution to the conflict.
3) Both Azerbaijani and Armenian have derived their negotiating positions based on seemingly intractable, constructed national identities based on the centrality of Nagorno-Karabakh, derived from virtually mutually exclusive narratives of the history and cultural significance of Nagorno-Karabakh to their national identities.