OSCE Office in Yerevan to Close; Azerbaijan Responsible

COPENHAGEN, Denmark—The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly President Christine Muttonen (MP, Austria) and Special Representative on the South Caucasus Kristian Vigenin (MP, Bulgaria) expressed regret about the May 4 announcement that it has not been possible to reach agreement to extend the mandate of the OSCE’s Office in Yerevan.

The Office is expected to close in the coming months.

The Office is expected to close in the coming months.

“I regret the fact that despite lengthy and extensive efforts, the Permanent Council has been unable to reach consensus on the continuation of the OSCE Office in Yerevan’s important work,” President Muttonen said. “The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly has repeatedly called for OSCE field operations to be given robust mandates and all the resources they need to allow them to perform their vital tasks, and yet, regrettably, another field operation is being closed.”

Vigenin noted how important the Office in Yerevan’s work is for Armenia and the OSCE, and stressed that the OSCE PA will remain actively engaged in the region.

“Following the closure of OSCE field operations in Georgia and Azerbaijan in past years, the Office in Yerevan has both a symbolic and practical importance that should not be overlooked. Personally, I have benefited from the Office’s expertise when carrying out diplomatic visits, and hope that the interim period before the final closure of the mission can be used to find a compromise solution so that the country can continue benefiting from its support,” Vigenin said.

In its Baku Declaration of 2014 the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly called for the OSCE to “adopt full, effective, and long-term mandates for OSCE field operations,” reiterating similar previous appeals.

The future of the office has been uncertain ever since Baku vetoed a further extension of its mandate, objecting to a humanitarian demining program implemented by it in Armenia. Azerbaijan’s delegation to the OSCE headquarters in Vienna insisted earlier this year that the program “can strengthen the capacity and skills of relevant Armenian structures” in the Nagorno-Karabagh (Artsakh) conflict, and accused Armenia of seeking to “misuse the OSCE Office in Yerevan against legitimate interests of Azerbaijan.”

“The United States regrets the impending closure of the OSCE Office in Yerevan,” Kate Byrnes, the charge d’affaires of the U.S. mission to the OSCE, said at the May 4 Permanent Council meeting in Vienna, adding “we lament the loss of the last OSCE field operation in the South Caucasus.”

Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Tigran Balayan criticized Azerbaijan for what he called “opposing” the will of the OSCE. “Due to its extremely destructive stance Azerbaijan finds itself in a total isolation. OSCE Chairmanship, participating States, Secretariat support activities of the OSCE Office in Yerevan, and it is solely Azerbaijan that abuses the OSCE principle of consensus, singlehandedly blocking the decision on the continuation of activities of the OSCE office in Yerevan thus opposing to the whole Organization,” Balayan said.

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