During Key West Talks
For the Resolution of the Karabakh Conflict
Bush Meets with Azeri, Armenian Leaders in Support of Peace
The Philadelphia Inquirer
April 10, 2001
By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON - President Bush urged the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia yesterday to keep up momentum toward peacefully resolving the conflict in the mountainous enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Bush held separate meetings at the White House with Armenian President Robert Kocharyan and Azeri President Heydar Aliyev.
Last week, Kocharyan and Aliyev held peace talks in Florida that ended on an upbeat note, with both sides reporting progress.
The two former Soviet republics have been split for 13 years over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, dominated by ethnic Armenians who tried to secede from Azerbaijan in 1988.
About 35,000 people have died in the conflict, which also drove about 800,000 Azeris from their homes before a truce in 1994. Despite the truce, about 200 people are killed each year by land mines and snipers.
The United States is eager to see an end to the conflict, and hopes that greater stability will help Azerbaijan become a major oil supplier for Western markets.
"The President encouraged both leaders to keep at the process, to work to overcome the differences," a senior Bush administration official said.
"And all the parties to the discussion agreed that peace will bring considerable benefits to the region, to the peoples of both countries and to the entire South Caucasus region and beyond," the official said.
Bush invited the two leaders to the White House for meetings as a sign of respect for the work they did last week in Key West, Fla.
At that time, talks were held under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, with the aid of U.S., French and Russian mediators.
After yesterday's meeting, Aliyev told reporters that "we are hopeful the United States of America and other cochairs will intensify their efforts in order to achieve peaceful resolution to this conflict."
Kocharyan left without talking to reporters.
Two senior U.S. officials who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity declined to provide details of the remaining differences between the two sides or to say how close the two sides are to an agreement.
Items on the table during the Key West talks included:
The presence of Armenian forces in the disputed region.
Trade blockades that have crippled the local economy.
The resettlement of refugees left homeless by the war.
The degree of autonomy the Nagorno-Karabakh region should have.