Azerbaijan tells OSCE to close its office in Baku
05 June 2015

Azerbaijan has told the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to close down its office in Baku. A spokesperson for the OSCE has confirmed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan sent a Note Verbale to the OSCE, informing the Organization that the Government terminates as of 4 June the Memorandum of Understanding between the Organization and the Government on the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Baku .In the Note Verbale the Azerbaijani government granted the OSCE one month from 4 June for completion of technical issues arising from termination of the Memorandum. The OSCE is currently considering its response to the Note Verbale.

The OSCE Mission Office in Baku was  established in 1999, with a mandate "to promotes the implementation of the OSCE principles and commitments, as well as the co-operation of the Republic of Azerbaijan within the OSCE framework, in all OSCE dimensions, including human, political, economic and environmental aspects of security and stability." It started operating on 17 July 2000.

However in 2013 Azerbaijan used its veto in the OSCE Permanent Council in order to block the extension of the mandate of the office. Instead a compromise solution was reached whereby the office was downgraded to simply a projects office.The mandate of the project office was:
"Supporting co-operation between the Government of Azerbaijan and the OSCE and its institutions aimed at implementing OSCE principles and commitments; Planning and implementing projects between the relevant authorities of Azerbaijan and the OSCE and its institutions covering all three dimensions of the OSCE's comprehensive security concept and taking into account the needs and priorities of the Government of Azerbaijan; Maintaining contacts with governmental and non-governmental bodies, local authorities, universities, research institutions and NGOs; Performing other tasks deemed appropriate by the Chairperson-in-Office or other OSCE institutions and agreed upon between the Government of Azerbaijan and the OSCE."

The move came shortly after the OSCE terminated the appointment of the Head of the Office Alexis Chahtahtinsky, amid reports that he had been criticised in the OSCE Permanent Council. On Wednesday (3 June) Chahtahtinsky paid a farwell call on President Ilham Aliev during which President Aliev, as quoted by the Presidential website, "hailed Alexis Chahtahtinsky`s contribution to the development of Azerbaijan-OSCE cooperation, and noted that implemented projects gave good results. President Ilham Aliyev wished the diplomat success in his future activities".

The news came in the same week that the Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic was on a visit to Baku as part of a tour of the region. Dacic visited the OSCE office and there was no mention of a possible closure in the statements made after his meetings with Azerbaijani officials.