Exclusive Interview with OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair Ambassador Hoagland
Caspian Policy Center (CPC): How do you evaluate current state of diplomatic efforts to resolve the Nagorno Karabakh conflict?
Ambassador Hoagland: The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe/OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries – the United States, Russia, and France – along with the OSCE Chairmanship’s Personal Representative Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk, continue to work for a diplomatic solution to the long-standing Nagorno Karabakh conflict, as they have for over 20 years. Most recently, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hosted in Moscow on April 28 Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov. The two sides recommitted to a political, not military, solution to the conflict. And so we can say that the diplomatic efforts remain active and will continue.
CPC: Are there any areas where the conflicting parties have come to an agreement/understanding, and what are the main stumbling blocks?
Ambassador Hoagland: I am pleased that the two sides recommitted in Moscow on April 28 to a political solution to the conflict and agreed to continue negotiations. However, it is only honest to say that the two sides have not reached consensus on how to achieve the final status of Nagorno Karabakh and are not yet ready to take interim steps toward that eventual solution.
CPC: Can Russia and the United States work together, despite all the problems that exist between the two, to resolve the conflict? Do other outstanding problems in bilateral relations constitute impediments for Russia and the United States to mediate the NK peace process?
Ambassador Hoagland: I want to assure you that the United States and Russia do indeed work well together, along with France, as OSCE Co-Chairs for Nagorno Karabakh. Yes, Moscow and Washington do not see eye to eye on a number of issues, and our presidents and foreign ministers are working on this. But Nagorno-Karabakh is one issue on which we quietly work well together. I want to make clear that I have great respect for my Russian counterpart, Ambassador Igor Popov.
CPC: As a co-chair of the Minsk Group, what are U.S. priorities and would there be any will to put significant political effort to speed up the peace process by the United States?
Ambassador Hoagland: As has been true for many years, the United States is committed to an agreement that would respect the United Nations Charter and the relevant documents and core principles of the Helsinki Final Act – specifically, the non-use of force, territorial integrity, and equal rights and self-determination of peoples. Those are the essentials. Beyond that, we are open to, and are prepared to participate fully in, any creative diplomatic efforts that might result in a win-win solution that would lead to a true solution that would unlock the human and economic potentials for all of the peoples of the South Caucasus region. Just because Nagorno Karabakh is sometimes called a “frozen conflict,” that does NOT mean that the OSCE Co-Chair diplomatic efforts are “frozen.” We are always looking for new ideas.
CPC: What are the lessons learned during the two decades of the peace process that can help handle/modify the process of reconciliation?
Ambassador Hoagland: Let me tell you, from my more than 30 years of diplomatic experience, the most important thing I have learned is that everything depends on individuals, on leaders, who are willing to take historic risks to turn pages of history that can achieve peace and move toward a new and better era. Governments and international organizations can have their pages and pages of policies and talking points for their diplomats to deploy; however, ultimate decisions are made only by leaders who have the political will to make historic decisions to achieve peace that will benefit their peoples and their nations. I have faith that this can be achieved between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nagorno Karabakh. Maybe not today, but let’s always hope for the future, and let’s hope it can be sooner rather than later.
Photo Credit: Washington University in Saint Louis International and Area Studies