For over three decades, the Minsk Group has failed to bring peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Now, some want a new format to deal with the conflict.
A Turkish official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has questioned whether the Minsk Group format is still a viable vehicle for bringing peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
“For three decades the efforts of the co-chairs didn’t yield any results,” said the official speaking to TRT World on condition of anonymity.
The Minsk Group was created in 1992 in a bid to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and bring Armenia and Azerbaijan together. Led by France, Russia and the United States, the co-chairs have made little to no headway.
“We question the co-chairmanship of the Minsk group and its effectiveness. Just making calls for a ceasefire or cessation of hostilities does not bring any results,” added the official.
Asked whether Turkey would like to see a more effective format than the Minsk group, the official said “definitely.”
The comments come a day after Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev called for Turkey to become a co-chair of the Minsk group in a bid to make the format more effective and representative.
Aliyev expressed concern that the current co-chairs were not doing enough to resolve the conflict, and that the Armenian lobby in all three countries skewed the negotiating table in favour of Yerevan’s continuing occupation of Azerberjan’s territory.
“Turkey's engagement within the Minsk Group format would provide Azerbaijan with an opportunity to achieve a much-needed balance. The current ratio of power within the group is not in favor of Baku,” says Rauf Mammadov, a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington.
Russian-led ceasefire talks attempted to fill a void on October 9 by corralling the Armenians and Azaberjani’s to come to Moscow and ultimately agree the truce.While it did not hold, with Baku accusing Armenia of shelling civilian areas, Putin wanted to show that Moscow still has sway in any future settlement.
“The Kremlin is determined to hold the reigns of the group by dominating the negotiation process,” added Mammadov speaking to TRT World.
Fresh doubt was cast on the Minsk Group’s ability to play an impartial role in de-escalating tensions when French President Emmanuel Macron seemed to speak in favour of Armenia.
With the US in the midst of an election year and Russia seen as a natural ally to Armenia, it is logical for officials in Baku to seek a regional ally as part of the resolution process, said Mammadov.
Post Minsk Group?
While the credibility of the Minsk Group would increase with Turkey’s inclusion, says retired Turkish Admiral Cem Gurdeniz speaking to TRT World, he cautions whether it would ultimately have the desired effect.
“The Minsk Group is designed to prolong the conflict [between Armenia and Azerbaijan] not to solve it,” said Gurdeniz who is also the brains behind Turkey's Blue Homeland doctrine in the Eastern Mediterranean.
“If Turkey, Iran and Russia establish a new process similar to Astana the crisis could have been solved easily,” added Gurdeniz referring to a similar process that has been used in Syria which has seen the three countries engage in an attempt to de-escalate the long running civil war.
The US and France, who have large Armenian diaspora communities, would lose their influence in the region if Russia and Turkey forged a common path in resolving a crisis that affects them both, said Gurdeniz.
Azerbaijan’s army has shown that Baku is ready to sustain their efforts to liberate the occupied Karabakh region.
According to some in Turkey, the country should pursue its national interests given that the conflict directly affects it.
One such person is Professor Volkan Ozdemir and Director of the Asia, Turkey, Europe Platform.
Too much importance is given to the Minsk Group which has proven that it’s not able to solve the regional problems, says Ozdemir speaking to TRT World.
“We need to create a new negotiating table outside of the Minsk Group,” he said, adding that “Turkey together with Russia, whether tacitly or not, should cooperate in order to bring peace to the region.”
While some outside observers have seen the latest flare up between Armenia and Azerbaijan as another theatre in which Russia and Turkey find themselves at odds (the others being Libya and Syria), none of the conflicts have brought about a breakdown in relations between Moscow and Ankara.
Moscow’s power in Yerevan, while still significant, has seen another rival counterpart emerge since Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan came to power through a Velvet Revolution in 2018.
Pashinyan has cautiously attempted to court the US but is wary of alienating Moscow. With Armenia seeking to balance its relationship with the US and Russia, Turkey might just have an opportunity to engage a Moscow that is still suspicious of Pashinyan.