The OSCE’s Minsk Group — 11 countries that mediate the negotiations on a settlement of the Karabakh conflict — has overcome a paralyzing internal dispute. According to simultaneous announcements yesterday in Yerevan, Baku, Moscow, and Paris, the group has agreed to have two co-chairmanships instead of one, as was previously the case. The U.S. and France will be elevated to those two posts, which rotate biannually. The OSCE’s 1997 Danish chairmanship facilitated this solution. Russia is the group’s permanent chairman. Last December France was appointed co-chairman by the OSCE’s 1996 Swiss chairmanship — to Armenia’s delight. The U.S. was supported by Azerbaijan, which threatened to veto the nomination of France.
Both the U.S. and France are historically sympathetic to Armenia, but Washington also has major interests in Azerbaijan and the South Caucasus-Caspian region generally. Washington is also capable, unlike Paris, of counterbalancing the Russian chairmanship of the Minsk Group. The three leading countries are now due to sign a framework document on resuming the forum’s activity, which has been suspended since last November. (Turan, Noyan-Tapan, Russian and Western agencies, February 11)
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