During Key West Talks
For the Resolution of the Karabakh Conflict
Transcript: OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs Press Conference, May 18, Baku
U.S., French, Russian Ambassadors on Nagorno-Karabakh
Source: U.S. Department of State, May 21, 2001
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group Co-chairs held a press conference in Baku, Azerbaijan, May 18 to brief reporters on progress on the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The co-chairs - Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh (United States), Ambassador Philippe de Suramaen (France), and Ambassador Nikolai Mikhailovich Gribkov (Russia) - had just met with Azerbaijan's President Heydar Aliyev. Earlier they met with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov.
Cavanaugh characterized the meeting with Aliyev as "very productive." Aliyev and Armenia's President, Robert Kocharian, "are ahead of their populations in understanding that there can be no lasting peace settlement if there is not compromise," he said, adding: "They have worked very much to find possible compromises. And they have been successful."
Cavanaugh declined, however, to provide details except to say that these compromises "would make up only part of the peace settlement."
De Suramaen said the Nagorno-Karabakh problem is not a "forgotten issue" but "the number one problem on the scene."
Gribkov revealed that the meeting with Ivanov had been "entirely devoted to the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and the perspectives of its settlement."
The co-chairs were scheduled to meet May 19 with Azerbaijani opposition leaders, some of whom have called for war. Praising the determination of Presidents Aliyev and Kocharian to find a peaceful solution to the situation, Cavanaugh said: "I personally believe the future of Azerbaijan and the future of Armenia lies in a peaceful settlement."
"The international community is looking at ways to help if peace can be found with the resettlement of refugees, the rebuilding of what was destroyed and the integration of this region. We believe for the region to achieve its true potential you need to integrate it effectively and economically," Cavanaugh said.
In his opening statement, he pointed out that the three were in the region for two reasons: "This is both a diplomatic trip in working on the peace process - in building on what had been developed at Key West [peace talks held last month in Key West, Florida] to see how to move forward. It is also one of our periodic trips where we come to the region about every six months to look more extensively at the situation on the ground, to see refugees and to look at needs for economic reconstruction and development."
Following is a transcript of the press conference provided by the U.S. Embassy in Baku:
Friday, May 18, 2001
TRANSCRIPT OF THE NEWS CONFERENCE OF THE OSCE MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRS
Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh, United States
Ambassador Philippe de Suramaen, France
Ambassador Nikolai Mikhailovich Gribkov, Russia
Ambassador Cavanaugh: Good Evening, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to apologize for us being late. We had a very productive and lengthy meeting with President Aliyev. We also had a meeting with Sergei Ivanov, the Russian Defense Minister at the airport. All of these meetings altered our schedule and plan. Now we would like to tell you a few words about our trip. This is both a diplomatic trip in working on the peace process - in building on what had been developed at Key West [peace talks held last month in Key West, Florida] to see how to move forward. It is also one of our periodic trips where we come to the region about every six months to look more extensively at the situation on the ground, to see refugees and to look at needs for economic reconstruction and development.
In the next few days we will visit the refugee camp at Agdjabadi, Aghdam region, city of Mardakert, Stepanakert, Shusa as well in Spitak and Gumru. These visits are all designed in one way or another to focus on the needs of this region. There are pressing humanitarian and economic needs as well as needs for security. Tomorrow we will do the first crossing ever of the line of contact to go from Azerbaijan into Aghdam and into the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. We remain very concerned about the military situation along the line of contact and on the border of Armenia and Azerbaijan. We will bring together military officials from both sides tomorrow to look at measures that might make that region, that border and that line of control safer.
Ambassador Gribkov: If I am going to speak Russian will you understand me?
I would like to clarify some points mentioned by Carey Cavanaugh. He said that tomorrow we will be crossing the line of contact between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh. I have to note that we have already crossed that line before, but those were borders between Azerbaijan and Armenia. We have done this monitoring twice. First time it was in the region of Gazakh and Jevan. The second time on the border of Nakhchivan and Armenia in the region of Sadarak. Tomorrow, I would like to repeat, we will have to first crossing of contact line in the region of Aghdam.
But in general I would like to support the words of my dear friend and colleague Mr. Cavanaugh. We indeed have done tremendous work in order to make the sides get closer, to reach a compromise agreement. You know in fact from the beginning of this year, the activity on Nagorno-Karabakh was very high. There were contacts at a high level by the presidents of our three countries, with Heider Aliyev and Robert Kocharian. There were very close contacts among our three presidents that included exchanges of messages and telephone calls and just conversations during meetings. I just wanted to say that our leaders are showing very big attention to this problem and are trying to do everything they can in order to solve this persistent problem. Our trips to the region are carrying the same goal. As it was already correctly noted here, our trips are two times per year and each trip adds more value in our understanding on the questions that arise daily. They help us maybe to find out new and not ordinary ways of solution. For example, I have an impression - I don't know whether my colleagues will agree with me or not - that now we have got so many new ideas so maybe we should somehow stop and think of what's going on because sometimes I think we are ahead of the schedule of our work. For now I will stop here.
Ambassador Philippe de Suramaen: If you allow I would prefer to speak French because it is still easier for me.
I just can support the words of my two colleagues. I am a relatively new in this sphere although I have been familiar with this region and what surprises me most about this is the closeness of the cooperation between us. We have been working intensively recently. This active work could be explained by the active work due to the great importance our presidents of all three countries have attached to this issue. I am drawing this to your attention in order to let you know that the Nagorno-Karabakh problem is not just a forgotten issue. It is the opposite, in that it is the number one problem on the scene. These periodic trips of ours give us a chance to better understand the elements and details of this problem. There is an international community standing behind us with the hope that after the peace settlement they could send forward help to this region. At the same time to put an end the unrest on both sides in this region and as Ambassador Cavanaugh mentioned, the organization of the current trip itself shows to what degree this problem remains of vital interest for us. The thing that I want to tell you is that we are working hard together. Thank you.
Ambassador Cavanaugh: Now we would like to answer your questions.
I have two questions, one is to Ambassador Cavanaugh. Ambassador Cavanaugh recently in different talks mentioned that the sides will have to agree to big compromises. If the territory of Azerbaijan was occupied, what kind of compromises could be made from Armenia's sides?
Cavanaugh: For several months now both Presidents have been talking about the need to make serious compromise to bring about a lasting settlement in this region. I believe that in their 16 meetings together they have developed an understanding that this is essential. And indeed, I think they are ahead of their populations in understanding that there can be no lasting peace settlement if there is not compromise. They have worked very much to find possible compromises. And they have been successful. We have helped them in that effort. The compromises would make up only part of the peace settlement. And both Presidents have made clear that there is no logic in discussing those compromises until there is a settlement. We respect that decision. These are very difficult fundamental questions for a nation. What has been encouraging them is that they have pursued this course. And we hope that they will be successful. That is all the detail I can really give on compromises.
I have a question addressed to all three co-chairs. How do you think the speed of conflict settlement is affected by additional delivery of Russian weapons to Armenia? And did you discuss the question of creation of the mutual Russian/Armenian Group on Anti-Aircraft Defensive Arms during your meeting with the Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Ivanov.
Ambassador Gribkov: As I understand this question is addressed to me? Journalist: No, to all of you.
Ambassador Gribkov: First of all I will start from the end of your question. The meeting with the Minister of Defense was very short and it was entirely devoted to the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and the perspectives of its settlement. Now to the beginning of your question. You know that Russian weapons have been located in Armenia for a long time and you know that very well. And I even hope that you know why they are located there. Let me assure that there is no connection of the location of our weapons to the Armenian and Azerbaijan relationship and mainly to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. But if you insist on it then I will say why wouldn't we develop this kind of military relationship with Azerbaijan as well? If you don't mind let's suggest our ministers of defense to elaborate on the possibility to deploy Russian weapons on Azerbaijan territory (ironically).
Question to Mr. Gribkov. Besides the meetings planned for June 15 in Geneva between Aliyev and Kocharian are there another planned contacts between the two, even unofficial? What kind of perspectives and questions could arise during those contacts?
Gribkov: As I know, at the present moment there is a meeting planned with Putin and Kocharian. The meeting has to take place in Armenia on May 24-25 on the occasion of a meeting of the Council of Collective Security that will take place in Yerevan. There, besides the protocol and general meetings, there will be separate meetings between the two presidents. After that on May 31st-June 1 there will be a Summit of NIS countries in Minsk. I don't exclude that even there, there will be meetings of Putin with the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan that would be concerning the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. With regards to the Geneva meetings that you mentioned and even mentioned the dates June 15, the discussions at these meetings will be determined by the results of these recent meetings, negotiations, and maybe what will happen in meetings in Minsk and Yerevan or other activities. The dates for Geneva have not been set up yet. It could even be the 15th of July or August. I can't tell now. It will depend on how the settlement process will go on.
Please tell us in what form are the peace settlement proposals being discussed at the present? Are they based on step by step format or a package agreement? If they are based on step by step format please let us know what regions of Azerbaijan are to be freed in the first stage?
Philippe de Suramaen: This is a very difficult question because you want us to tell you the details of the proposals we are discussing now. It would run contrary to the trust shown by the two presidents. Meaning that to disclose those ideas prematurely would be counterproductive. I can only say that until now we did not forget anything that we have discussed in the past. We are using those materials from the past and our frequent meetings are the results of our hard work in this area. Since the Key West meetings we have been to NY, Vienna, and now we are in Baku and are going to be in Yerevan and as Mr. Gribkov mentioned earlier we have got a lot of ideas that have to be elaborated on. I have to mention that this issue is very sensitive and by the time you get some idea another element or detail arises that has to be taken into consideration. I don't believe that my answer satisfied your question (smiling).
My question is for Mr. Cavanaugh. From the press we heard that you wrote a letter to the leaders of Musavat, the Popular Front, Azerbaijan National Independence parties and asked them to convince the public and the population here to the agreement of the Karabakh conflict.
Cavanaugh: I did not write such a letter. Let me also take the occasion to highlight that we will be meeting with opposition leaders tomorrow. We think it's very important to take their views also into account as this peace process moves forward. One thing I had said about the opposition is concerns about some who call for war. I believe President Aliyev has been very clear in his dedication to pursuing a peaceful resolution of this conflict. President Kocharian has shown the same determination. It is hard to see a situation where Azerbaijan or Armenia would benefit from further fighting. The destruction, the refugees, all the results of this last fighting are still holding this country back. I personally believe the future of Azerbaijan and the future of Armenia lies in a peaceful settlement. And I think that many in the opposition believe that too. But there are some who take the easy course of simply calling for war, and I do disagree with them.
I would like to know your assessment on Azerbaijan's position on the demand for compensation for damage. Azerbaijan has tried to raise this issue of compensation from Armenia for its refugees. I believe Azerbaijan is going to make an appeal to the International Court. I would also like you to answer the first question about Russia's attitude to terrorism in Chechnya and in Karabakh.
Cavanaugh: think the only answer we can give to that question is that concerns about claims is something we have been discussing. These questions are enormously complicated. We have seen around the world with other conflicts, it is often difficult to resolve them effectively. It's one of many issues we have been looking at.
Gribkov: I would like to say a few words in answer to your question about the Chechen terrorism. Our position on the Chechen terrorism is very simple. We condemn terrorism in all its forms and appearances. So that's why I don't understand your question.
Because of your double standard.
Gribkov: What double standard are you talking about?
Double standard of the terrorism in the form of separatism in Karabakh and Chechnya.
Gribkov: So, if you want to know, in 1992 in Helsinki there was a Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers, then the Council on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Now it is called OSCE. In accordance with that Session in the Nagorno Karabakh Conflict there four parties involved: Azerbaijan and Armenia, as two conflicting parties, and two interested ones - Nagorno Karabakh and the Azerbaijani Community of Nagorno Karabakh. If an International Organization makes such decisions, and you regard Nagorno Karabakh as a terrorist organization, then I don't understand it.
At today's meeting with the Russian Defense Minister, was there a discussion on the participation of Russian troops in a peace-keeping operation to come after a peace agreement is signed? At the OSCE Budapest Summit there was made a decision that in a peace-keeping contingent share of any state cannot exceed 30%. And will the principle of territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and its sovereignty over Nagorno Karabakh be preserved in future settlement of the problem?
Cavanaugh: Let me give a part of the answer to the first question. Defense Minister Ivanov had a meeting with President Aliyev. And if you want to know what they talked about at that meeting you would have to talk to him. That was a one-on-one meeting. We had a meeting with Defense Minister Ivanov at the Baku airport about an hour ago. And the focus of that meeting was on broad efforts to push forward a solution to the problem of Karabakh. We have just finished three hours of meeting with President Aliyev: one hour in public, two hours in private. And we took this opportunity to be able to convey our Co-Chair concerns directly back to President Putin. As you know the communication between Presidents Bush, Chirac and Putin on the question of Nagorno-Karabakh have been significant. And the common approach that the three Presidents in the three countries have had to this problem have helped move this peace process forward. I think you can take this meeting with Defense Minister Ivanov as yet another sign of that constant communication. So he and soon President Putin will be well aware of the intricacies of the discussions we've had here in Baku. And I can tell you I have already called Washington to tell them both about the discussion with President Aliyev and the discussion we had with Defense Minister Ivanov. I can tell you that right now in fact in Washington Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Secretary of State Powell are having lunch and talking about Nagorno-Karabakh.
Gribkov: I would like to add a few words to what my colleague Cavanaugh said. I will be quite frank. Question about international military presence including Russia was not discussed at the meeting with Mr. Ivanov. At least because you know there are issues of high and lower priorities. At the beginning we have to agree on how to settle this major and serious problem. And other following issues could be addressed at the latest stages.
Will the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan be preserved?
Gribkov: I think this is what we state all the time here on how the problem will be settled is pretty clear.
Mr. Cavanaugh recently stated that an economic development plan for the region is under work after the war is over. I think when Mr. Cavanaugh spoke of the plan, he meant Azerbaijani territory because its territory suffered mostly from destruction both economically and other areas in the conflict.
Cavanaugh: Actually when I talk about economic development in this region I mean both Armenia and Azerbaijan, and Georgia and beyond. The international community is looking at ways to help if peace can be found with the resettlement of refugees, the rebuilding of what was destroyed and the integration of this region. We believe for the region to achieve its true potential you need to integrate it effectively and economically.
My first question is to the French co-chairman. What was the purpose of the recent visit of NK representatives to France and what they discussed with the Co-Chairs? And two weeks ago NK representatives led by Gukasyan were in Paris and met with the French both former and present Co-Chair. What was discussed at that meeting? What was the purpose of the meeting, and why were NK representatives were invited there?
French Co-Chair: The President of a so-called NK Republic paid a non-official visit to Paris. He traveled with his Armenian passport. He held meetings with various local Armenian organizations. As to my meeting with him, I had a lunch with him where my purpose was to get comprehensive information, and it was unofficial. I can assure you that he was not officially invited. It was a private visit. For example, he was not received at the Foreign Ministry.
Your last meeting with the President lasted just one hour, whereas this time it increase to three. Does it mean that compromises have narrowed or (inaudible)?
Cavanaugh: The last time when I met with the President I had a four hour meeting, this time (there was) a three hour meeting with the three of us. But you would be making a mistake to judge the meanings, values of meetings by their length. The only thing you can judge by the length of the meeting is how much importance your president attaches to this peace process. And this when had dozen important state issues and almost eight or nine defence ministers in town, he spent three hours with us on this problem.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: You said during the Key West talks that Iranian side should also be informed. What was the reason you said that - was it because a change of territory has been discussed, borders with Iran, or that Iran might be involved in this process?
Cavanaugh: It was at the end of the Key West talks (that we announced) our intention to brief the Iranian government on the peace process. We thought that as peace is moving forward it was important to inform other players in the region and others who will be involved in helping implement a peace. Ten days ago we had meetings with the Minsk Group in Vienna and informed many of the European countries most involved with this conflict and we talk about this at OSCE, which lets 55 European countries know the pace of developments and what is going on. That takes care of Georgia, that takes care of Turkey, that takes care of most European countries that will be involved in the settlement. But since Iran is not a member of the OSCE they are left out of that process. We are now working with the government of Iran to find a common time when the three co-chairs can brief the Iranian government. We believe that it's in Iran's interest that there be a peaceful settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and we believe that the peace processes now under discussion do not in any way hurt Iran's fundamental interests. And as I said we are working with the government of Iran to find the right time to do that briefing.
Thank you all very much!
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.
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