Formal groups of states

Another approach to conflict resolution has involved the establishment of formal groups of states operating under OSCE auspices to try to assist disputing parties to resolve their differences peacefully. These may take the form of:

  • Contact groups, such as the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG) for Ukraine

  • “Friends” of a particular country

  • A formal group of states, such as the Minsk Group

  • Participating as part of larger formats in the settlements of conflicts, such as the Geneva International Discussions on the Georgian-Abkhaz and Georgian – Ossetian conflicts

The OSCE Minsk Group

A pertinent example is the the “Minsk Group” which was established after the collapse of the Soviet Union to address the Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) conflict between the then newly independent states of Armenia and Azerbaijan. When both Armenia and Azerbaijan joined the CSCE in January 1992, the organization immediately addressed the conflict. In 1994 the CSCE created a group of eleven member states (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Finland, and Turkey, as well as the “troika” co-chairs, special envoys from France, Russia and the United States). The Minsk Group is one of the elements of the OSCE set up to deal with the conflict – the other ones are the Personal Representative of the CiO on the conflict dealt with by the OSCE Minsk Conference whose office participates in monitoring exercises on the line of contact and the border, and the High Level Planning Group (HLPG).

The Minsk Group Co-Chairs ensure that channels of dialogue are open at the highest-level, providing mediation services and good offices, organizing fact-finding missions and developing settlement plans. They visit the region regularly to conduct high-level talks with the parties to the conflict and hold meetings with the OSCE CiO and the Minsk Group members to brief them on the process. 

Morning mist over Stepanakert/Khankendi. @Nina Stössinger on Flick

Morning mist over Stepanakert/Khankendi. @Nina Stössinger on Flick

The Minsk Group holds on-going meetings and dialogue between its members to review the situation and regularly issues press releases on the current situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. Notably, during Covid restrictions and challenges, the Co-Chairs managed to ensure that ongoing high-level channels of dialogue and cooperation remained open and effective. After a breach of the ceasefire resulting in casualties in July 2020 on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, the Co-Chairs and PR CiO were able to directly contact Armenian and Azerbaijani officials for purposes of dialogue and mediation. Both sides have accused each other of initiating the fighting. The Minsk Group CoChairs condemned the ceasefire violations and called upon the sides to take all necessary measures to prevent any further escalation, including by use of the existing direct communication channels between them. They issued calls for continued peace and stability and for the return of OSCE Monitors to the region as soon as circumstances allow.