The United States called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to avoid ceasefire violations as it announced the appointment of its new chief negotiator in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process on Friday.
The U.S. Embassy in Yerevan said that Richard Hoagland will replace another career diplomat, James Warlick, as U.S. co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, next month “on an interim basis.” “The permanent replacement for Ambassador Warlick will be announced at a future date,” it said in a statement.
Warlick, who has held that position for the past three years, said last month that he will resign at the end of December to work for a Russian law firm in Washington.
Hoagland most recently led a U.S.-Russian task force on the conflict in Syria and served as a deputy assistant secretary of state. He was America’s ambassador to Tajikistan and Kazakhstan in the 2000s.
In 2007, Hoagland was named by the administration of then-President George W. Bush to serve as U.S. ambassador to Armenia. A pro-Armenian U.S. senator, Robert Menendez, blocked congressional confirmation of the nomination after Hoagland declined to publicly describe the 1915 Armenian massacres in Ottoman Turkey as genocide.
“Ambassador Hoagland’s extensive diplomatic experience will be critical as the United States works with the sides toward a lasting and peaceful settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” read the embassy statement.
“The United States continues to call on the parties to maintain their commitment to the ceasefire and to implement agreements reached at the Vienna and St. Petersburg summits, and urges a return to negotiations on a settlement, which would benefit all sides,” it said.
The appeal came the day after three Armenian soldiers serving on the border with Azerbaijan were killed in what official Yerevan says was an Azerbaijan incursion.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry accused Azerbaijan of “grossly violating” the confidence-building agreements that were reached at those two summits. It urged the U.S. and the two other co-chairs of the Minsk Group, Russia and France, to “sober up the Azerbaijani leadership.”
The Azerbaijani military denied attacking the Armenian border post.
In a joint statement issued early this month, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault urged the conflicting parties to bolster the ceasefire regime with specific safeguards that were agreed at Vienna and Saint Petersburg.
Those included international investigations of armed incidents and the expansion of an OSCE mission periodically monitoring the ceasefire regime along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and the Karabakh frontlines. Shortly after the Saint Petersburg meeting held in June, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said Baku will allow such investigations only if the Armenians and the mediators set “time frames for the liberation of our territories.”