During Key West Talks
For the Resolution of the Karabakh Conflict
Key West peace talks called serious, open
By Jane Sutton
April 4, 2001
KEY WEST, Fla. (Reuters) - U.S., French and Russian negotiators said Wednesday they had serious and open meetings with the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan during a Florida summit to work toward peace in the war-torn Nagorno-Karabakh region.
"The talks are taking place in a good atmosphere of openness, of seriousness," said Ambassador Jean-Jacques Gaillarde, the head of the French delegation.
"I think the discussions today have been very concrete," said Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh, who leads the U.S. delegation.
But the substance of the peace talks, in their second day on the subtropical island at the southern tip of Florida, was kept strictly confidential. The negotiators vaguely described meetings that lasted until 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday, then resumed on Thursday, spreading through every room of Harry Truman's "Little White House" and spilling into the gardens of the former presidential retreat, where the talks are taking place.
Azeri President Haydar Aliyev and Armenian President Robert Kocharyan have met more than a dozen times in two years to hammer out a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the oil-rich region at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.
They are meeting again in Florida under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is chaired by the United States, Russia and France.
Nearly 35,000 people have died and around 800,000 have been displaced in the conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh territory, internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but controlled by ethnic Armenian separatists since the late 1980s.
A truce was agreed in 1994 but about 200 people are killed each year by land mines and snipers, destabilizing Azerbaijan, a country the United States hopes will become a major exporter of oil to Western markets.
COMPROMISES NECESSARY TO ACHIEVE PEACE
Cavanaugh said the face-to-face meetings of the two presidents had made it increasingly clear to them that they will have to make compromises to achieve peace, something their populations may not be ready to accept.
Though the mediators have played a growing role in the negotiations, they were adamant that no solution could be imposed. Russia, which has a defense relationship with Armenia, "is not going to use any kind of arm-twisting tactics," said Viacheslav Trubnikov, first deputy foreign minister and head of Russia's delegation.
"The keys to the solution of the conflict are in the hands of Azerbaijan and Armenia," Trubnikov said.
The two leaders took some time off to sample Key West's recreational offerings. Aliyev was spotted sipping a pina colada at the Havana Docks lounge in the Pier House hotel where he is staying. Kocharyan was briefly seen strolling Duval Street, the island's main thoroughfare.
A sunset cruise around the harbor was planned, and one of the presidents asked to visit a shipwreck museum displaying artifacts and golden treasures recovered from a Spanish galleon that sank off the Florida Keys in the 1600s.
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Posted on Azerbaijan International - Azer.com