Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 225

The OSCE’s year-end meeting in Oslo ended anticlimactically, failing to generate progress toward a settlement of post-Soviet regional conflicts. Actual regression on the Karabakh conflict was avoided when the conferees did not insist on a “common state” of Azerbaijan and Karabakh as the basis for settling the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict. Azerbaijan had warned that it would use its right of veto against that formula. Armenia for its part supported what it described as a “bold” and “precedent-setting” concept. The conference merely pledged that the OSCE would persevere in its effort to mediate a peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict.

Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Tofig Zulfugarov felt able to report from Oslo to President Haidar Aliev that “the ‘common state’ principle was buried for good in Oslo.” Zulfugarov ascertained a widening opposition to that concept at the conference and predicted that the OSCE mediators will themselves abandon this “unsuccessful effort to create a new type of state.” Azerbaijan at the same time restated–as did Armenia–its commitment to the ceasefire and to the OSCE-mediated negotiations (Assa-Irada, Reuters, Russian agencies, December 4).

The OSCE mediators last month stunned Azerbaijan and pleased both Armenia and Karabakh by adopting the Russian Foreign Ministry’s “common state” paradigm. That ambiguous and inherently unstable formula would ensure continuing strife among the parties and an open-ended role for Moscow as arbiter (background in the Monitor, November 12, 13, December 2, 3; and Fortnight in Review, November 27). By resisting the creation of a precedent, Azerbaijan indirectly aided Georgia and Moldova, which were already facing Russian pressure to settle for a “common state” with Abkhazia and Transdniester, respectively.