The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will close its Yerevan office in coming months, the organization’s web site reported on May 4. The move comes after Azerbaijan unilaterally blocked approval for the office mandate. Armenia and other members, including the United States, objected to the move. A consensus-based organization the OSCE needs approval from all of its 57 members for funding decisions.
The OSCE is the main international platform for Karabakh negotiations, but the office in Yerevandealt primarily with democracy and human rights issues. The office is headed by Argo Avakov, who previously served in the Russian government and the United Nations.
Separately, the OSCE maintains Tbilisi-based office of representative for the Karabakh conflict led since 1996 by ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk. That office has half a dozen monitors that visit the Armenian-Azerbaijan Line of Contact, usually twice a month. In recent years, Azerbaijan has sought to curtail its activities as well.
Over the past decade a number of OSCE field offices in post-Soviet states were shut down or downgraded, with member states taking advantage of the consensus system to express their annoyance with the organization.
The OSCE Mission in Georgia was shuttered in 2009 after the Russian government blocked its funding.
The OSCE Office in Minsk was closed in 2011 after the government of Belarus refused to extend its mandate.
On Azerbaijan’s insistence, the OSCE Office in Baku was first downgraded to OSCE project-coordinator position in 2014, and then fully shut down by 2016.
Currently, OSCE retains field presence in Moldova, Ukraine and five Central Asian capitals. In early 2014, Russia approved Ukraine’s request for the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to monitor the conflict in eastern Ukraine.