VIENNA, Austria (RFE/RL)—The United States warned Azerbaijan on Thursday against forcing the closure of the Yerevan office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
The office has been facing an uncertain future since Baku vetoed recently a further extension of its activities, strongly objecting to a humanitarian demining program implemented by it in Armenia.
The Azerbaijani delegation to the OSCE headquarters in Vienna insisted in a January statement that the program “can strengthen the capacity and skills of relevant Armenian structures” in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. It accused Armenia of seeking to “misuse the OSCE Office in Yerevan against legitimate interests of Azerbaijan.”
Armenia has shrugged off those allegations, saying that Azerbaijan is simply trying to force the OSCE to close the Yerevan office, having itself shut down in 2015 a similar OSCE office in Baku. OSCE decisions on opening such missions and extending their mandate have to be approved by all 57 member states of the organization.
Baku did not drop its objections even after the Armenian government apparently agreed later in January to exclude demining from a wide range of OSCE activities in Armenia.
“We are very concerned by the situation regarding the OSCE Office in Yerevan,” said Kate Byrnes, the charge d’affaires of the U.S. mission to the OSCE.
“This office, like all OSCE field missions and institutions, is an important element of the work done by this organization to assist participating states with the implementation of their OSCE commitments,” Byrnes said at a meeting of the OSCE’s Permanent Council in Vienna.
“Should the Office in Yerevan be forced to close, this will reflect poorly on Azerbaijan and its government’s commitment to the OSCE,” she warned. “We urge the government of Azerbaijan to constructively engage in finding a compromise solution as soon as possible that will allow the office in Yerevan to remain open.”