U.S. interim co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, Ambassador Richard Hoagland, is retiring on August 28.

Announcing his plans at a roundtable discussion at the Washington Foreign Press Center, Hoagland, currently the State Department’s principal deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, said he will be replaced by Andrew Schofer, a career foreign service officer who most recently served as charge d’affaires of the U.S. Mission to the International Organizations in Vienna.

“He has experience in the settlement of the Cyprus and other conflicts,” Hoagland said.  “I think the Secretary of State and the State Department have chosen a brilliant Co-Chair.”

Hoagland said the new appointment does not indicate a new approach to some of the thorniest issues in the region, particularly Azerbaijan’s autonomous breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

International mediators recently called for all parties to the conflict to undertake confidence-building measures in the region, a move that comes 16 months after clashes erupted there, the deadliest incidents since a 1994 cease-fire established the current territorial division.  The brief, but intense, fighting of April 2016 claimed dozens of lives.

Since then, the United States, Russia and France, which co-chair the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Minsk Group for conflict mediation, have continued advocating diplomacy to secure a binding peace resolution.

During the meeting, Hoagland circulated a document outlining key points to guide the political settlement process.

“In light of Nagorno-Karabakh’s complex history, the sides should commit to determining its final legal status through a mutually agreed and legally binding expression of will in the future,” said Hoagland’s outline of key points, which, he told VOA, reflect consensus among all OSCE co-chairs.  “Interim status will be temporary.”

The areas within boundaries of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region that is not controlled by Baku, Hoagland’s document says, “should be granted an interim status that, at a minimum, provides guarantees for security and self-governance.”

“The occupied territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh should be returned to Azerbaijani control,” the document says.  “There can be no settlement without respect for Azerbaijan’s sovereignty, and the recognition that its sovereignty over the territories must be restored.”

His plan also calls for a safe corridor connecting Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, although the corridor “cannot include the whole Lachin district.”

“The long-term settlement should recognize the right of all internally displaced peoples and refugees to return to their former places of residence,” he said. “The settlement must include international security guarantees that would include peacekeeping measures.  There is no scenario in which peace can be ensured without well-designed peacekeeping operation that enjoys the confidence of all sides.”

This story originated in VOA’s Armenian Service. 

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