The United States will appoint Andrew James Schofer as its co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, which coordinates negotiations in the Karabakh peace process, the current envoy Amb. Richard Hoagland said at a State Department briefing on August 23.
Schofer was previously the acting head at the U.S. mission to international organizations in Vienna, dealing primarily with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Prior to that, from 2011 to 2014, he served as deputy chief of mission and charge d’affaires at the U.S. embassy in Cyprus. Schofer’s earlier assignments included U.S. embassies in Bahrain and the Netherlands.
Hoagland became the U.S. envoy for Karabakh on a temporary basis in January. The position was first created in 1992, when Jack Maresca, then the U.S. ambassador to the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE, the OSCE predecessor), took up the job. Schofer is expected to become the 11th U.S. diplomat to serve in this capacity on a permanent basis.
In other State Department developments, John Heffern is expected to depart as principal deputy assistant secretary for Europe and Eurasia. A former U.S. ambassador to Armenia (2011-14), Heffern has been acting assistant secretary seen by the side of Secretary Rex Tillerson during his trips to Europe and talks with Russian officials. According to a Foreign Policy report, as many other professional diplomats, Heffern was being “forced” to leave his position.
Wess Mitchell, founder, president & CEO of the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), a think tank with offices in Warsaw and Washington, was nominated to fill the vacant assistant secretary for Europe and Eurasia position last month. Described as Russia hawk and Putin critic, Mitchell also worked on European issues at the John Hay Initiative, a neoconservative-leaning advocacy group.
As former U.S. negotiator for Karabakh Carey Cavanaugh has pointed out, according to a letterfrom Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Schofer will combine his Minsk Group work with other responsibilities of a deputy assistant secretary in the Europe and Eurasia Bureau headed by Mitchell. Past U.S. Minsk Group co-chairs Steve Mann (2004-6) and Matt Bryza (2006-9) also concurrently served as deputy assistant secretaries.