The OSCE is closing its Office in Yerevan today.
The Organization opened its field presence in Armenia in 2000. During the years of its operation, the OSCE Office in Yerevan and its dedicated staff promoted the implementation of OSCE principles and commitments, conducted successful operations and implemented valuable projects in all three OSCE dimensions of security – the politico-military, the economic and environmental and the human dimension. The OSCE’s activities in the country included, among others, assistance with police reforms, promoting environmentally-sound natural resources management, support for streamlining the national regulatory frameworks affecting business activity, and support to formulation and implementation of reforms affecting the justice system and electoral management.
Azerbaijan vetoed late last year a further extension of its mandate, objecting to a humanitarian demining program sponsored by it in Armenia. It claimed that the program could “strengthen” the Armenian military in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Armenia has repeatedly shrugged off those allegations. It says that Baku is simply keen to force the closure of the Yerevan office after having a similar OSCE office in Baku shut down in 2015 in line with its poor human rights record.
OSCE decisions on opening such missions and extending their activities have to be unanimously approved by all 57 member states of the organization.
Baku did not drop its objections even after the Armenian government agreed in January to exclude demining from the wide range of OSCE activities in Armenia. Its uncompromising stance prompted a stern warning from the United States, with a senior U.S. diplomat saying in February that the office closure would “reflect poorly on Azerbaijan.”
The closure of the OSCE Office in Yerevan follows months of negotiations and extensive efforts by the 2016 German OSCE Chairmanship and the 2017 Austrian OSCE Chairmanship to reach consensus among OSCE participating States on the extension of the Office’s mandate.
՚The Organization will seek to continue its engagement with Armenia in line with existing OSCE commitments,” OSCE said in a statement.