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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Releases > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Remarks > 2001 > April

Armenia and Azerbaijan: Key West Peace Talks

Phillip T. Reeker, Spokesman
Ambassador Jean-Jacques Gaillarde from France; First Deputy Foreign Minister Viacheslav Trubnikov from the Russian Federation; and Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh from the United States
Briefing by Three Co-Chairs on Key West Peace Talks
Key West, Florida
April 6, 2001

MR. REEKER: I think we're ready to begin. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Pardon the slight delay. Welcome back to our press center here in Key West.

We are pleased to have with us again the three co-chairs from our negotiations: Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh, Ambassador Jean-Jacques Gaillarde, and Viacheslav Trubnikov, the First Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation.

So without any further ado, I think we'll go directly to Ambassador Cavanaugh, who can give some remarks, and then we'll take your questions.

MR. CAVANAUGH: First let me say how much we appreciate the incredible hospitality of the people of Key West, Florida, that they have shown our delegation and delegations from Armenia and Azerbaijan this past week. They have opened their doors and opened their hearts to us. It has made an enormous difference.

We had anticipated already the peaceful environment that we would find here in Florida and the tranquil setting that the Truman White House would provide, but I don't think even we had realized how warm the people here were going to be, and that was felt by everyone, including both the presidents, and they made it clear to us that they have really felt warmly embraced by Florida. And in fact, we have had to fend off repeated suggestions that perhaps we should be returning. We did have one discussion today, before I turn to more seriousness, that indeed they have some interest in, when peace is achieved in their countries and implemented, returning here to celebrate. So you may see us here again on this island that straddles the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

We have a formal communiqué to issue. I think that is going to be passed out to you promptly. Let me not read it. I think it speaks for itself -- why don't we give it out. But let me add to it already. It says many things about the progress that we have achieved here. Let me emphasize, in fact, that we achieved more progress here than we had expected. This has been a very fruitful contribution to the peace process on Nagorno-Karabakh. We said going in to this meeting that this was a step along a path that had roots from before and steps that would come after. But this has been a bold and significant step forward that would not have been possible were it not for the strong commitment of the President of Armenia and the President of Azerbaijan. They have made possible significant work here that takes us forward in the quest for peace.

And let me add, we have heard repeatedly from both men the essentiality of maintaining the ceasefires that exist between them, of strengthening that ceasefire, of taking measures to reduce any loss of life in their countries, and their overwhelming commitment that the only way to resolve the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh is through peaceful means.

All of the co-chairs have seen talk in the region by people who are not in responsible positions of authority, that the answer to the problem is war, that the answer to the problem is renewed hostilities. I can tall you we have heard a resounding and overwhelming "No" to that approach from the leadership that we have seen here, and we have seen a resounding and overwhelming "Yes" here from this leadership on steps and measures, concrete measures, to take to advance peace.

I will tell you we may have cheated. We took from Harry Truman, who was famous for having a plaque on his desk, "The buck stops here", the idea that perhaps we needed a plaque as well, and we drew upon divine inspiration today and had the presidents negotiating on the basis of the Book of Matthew, that the peacekeepers are blessed, for they are the children of God. And I can tell you that the response we had from the presidents today was a blessed response, because they engaged themselves this entire week as peacemakers.

Let me let my colleagues speak. Please read through the communiqué we are issuing, and then after we will be glad to take your questions.

MR. TRUBNIKOV: To be frank, I have nothing to add, but to completely share what my American colleague has said right now. Really we have done a very difficult but very satisfactory job, and for me, I will be leaving Key West with a very warm feeling of a person who did his best to fulfill the debt he was given on his way to this place.

MR. GAILLARDE: I will speak in the same spirit, of course. A tremendous work has been done during these four days in Key West, and one can say that we are much closer to the peace than before we were before this conference. We have to pay tribute to both presidents. We have shown goodwill, seriousness, and we have a very strong engagement for the peace.

One of the reasons of the success was the good cooperation also between the three countries, the representatives of the three co-chair countries. And I think we think that the format which has been taken for the first time for these negotiations is the most adequate for this negotiation, and the summit format will be taken in the next steps for the next steps of the negotiation.

MR. REEKER: We would be happy to take your questions.

Q: I have a question to all the three co-chairs, or whoever will answer it. The joint communiqué says that the co-chairs are preparing a new comprehensive proposal. When do you expect to work it out and present the new proposals to the presidents, and is there any decision on the next meeting by the two presidents?

MR. CAVANAUGH: Let me address part of that. You, I see, go to the heart of the matter, the communiqué. Yes, indeed, we are preparing a new comprehensive proposal for peace. We have made considerable progress on that here this week in Florida. We have talked to both presidents about next steps. We have made it clear that the process will continue. We have not finalized what will happen next, but I believe there is a very good possibility that we will repeat this format in Geneva in June.

Q: Mr. Gaillarde, all this tremendous work has been done and then his colleague told us that we are much closer to peace now. Can you share with us your views how can you say that? In which field have you come much closer? And the most important thing is, since both presidents seem to be of very peaceful mind after spending four days here, have they committed themselves not to fight ever again on Nagorno-Karabakh or some other part of the land, the territory?

MR. GAILLARDE: The fact that the presidents have come here was a sign of their will to solve this problem by peaceful means, and to make the necessary compromise for getting closer for having a peace agreement. Many older difficulties have been identified in detail here, and on much or many problems one can say that the positions have gotten closer. But of course there is still a lot of work to do before we have a peace agreement, but on the way to this goal Key West is a very important step.

Q: (Inaudible) for diplomatic talks (inaudible)?

MR. GAILLARDE: Yes, the fact that they want to continue the talks is a clear signal of this attitude.

Q: In the communiqué that we have here, it says that the meeting took place through April 7. I was wondering, today is in my mind April 6. Are there any further meetings planned for today and tomorrow, and what would be the further programs of both presidents, meaning that Monday we heard that there is a very good chance that they will meet with President Bush?

MR. CAVANAUGH: Let me say the text you have talks about these talks having run from April 3 - 7. We have been working late into the night every single night we have been here. We have not yet had a night that ended before midnight. I suspect we will conclude our activities today, sometime around 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. tomorrow. That should mark the end of these talks.

We had planned to have the ability to continue talks tomorrow if needed. Indeed, we made such progress today in the morning that that was not necessary. And as I made clear at the outset, in fact we have gone further in Key West than we had expected before we came here.

As to the question on next steps, I can confirm in fact that both presidents will travel to Washington, D.C., to meet with President Bush on Monday. Both presidents are pleased at the opportunity to meet President Bush. President Bush is delighted to be able to discuss with them the serious steps that were taken this week in Key West toward peace.

It is rare that you have presidents devoting this much of their time taking away their presence from their countries focused on one issue, but both presidents made clear to us there is no more important issue for their countries than resolving this dispute. President Bush sees that as the kind of attitude that can be nothing but admired, and I am pleased and the presidents are pleased that we will have an opportunity to continue already talking about measures to advance peace in Washington on Monday.

Q: Ambassador, the question is for all of you. Now, we know that there were three plans for the settlement. You had three proposals. And we also know what were the basic philosophy for all these three proposals. What is the new idea that you were talking during these days that will be the core of the new proposal? Would that be a combination of -- would that be a state where Karabakh and Azerbaijan would be like an equal partner, or partners, or some other idea? Would you give us any concrete ideas that you have?

MR. CAVANAUGH: Let me say that the fundamental basis for the framework we have been discussing in Key West is mutual compromise. And it is a point that the presidents highlighted before coming here, and it is a point that the presidents made concrete by their actions and deeds here that the only way to resolve this conflict is to be serious about compromise, to find compromises that are acceptable to the populations of both countries, and that can bring about a durable lasting peace and a dramatic transformation of this region.

I will not go into detail on precisely what we have achieved here. I will not go into details on what aspects remain open and that we hope to address in Geneva. But I can tell you that the fundamental basis is indeed that it's on compromise and its importance in advancing peace.

Q: Ambassador Cavanaugh, there has been a lot of discussions recently on Nagorno-Karabakh's possible participation in discussions, and you've noted that this proper moment is watched and judged by OSCE Minsk Group.

My question is -- well, you made it quite reasonable why you want them to discuss -- to take part in discussions. What about the representatives of the Azeri community of Nagorno-Karabakh? Will their opinions be taken into consideration? Will they participate in the discussions?

MR. CAVANAUGH: I believe we have made clear repeatedly that it is the intent of the co-chairmen of the Minsk Group to take the opinions of all the populations in the region into account. We are concerned about all of the people who have been dramatically affected by this conflict, and we have been doing that in our role as co-chairmen as we have traveled through the region.

I would add, our concerns spread also beyond the region. We are already discussing how we will convey the results and what have been achieved here to other members of the Minsk Group itself, and to the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe. We expect to be doing that in coming weeks. We have also had a discussion of how we will convey some of the results that we have achieved here to the Government of Iran, since this is also an important player in this region, and a country that we know has watched this process closely. The Government of Turkey would fall into the same category, but as you know is also included in the Minsk Group countries.

But we are taking into account all the concerns of relevant populations, of relevant states in how this peace process can be moved forward as quickly as possible.

Q: Is there any discussion (inaudible)?

MR. CAVANAUGH: Was that heard? The question was regarding discussions with Iran before -- was it the first time? There have been bilateral discussions by a number of parties with Iran regarding efforts towards a settlement. One of the most recent was between the Armenian Government and the Iranian Government in Athens, but I would add that the new French co-chair, who will join us in May, is currently the French Ambassador to Iran.

Q: Do you think any certain documents could be signed, or maybe could be considered in Washington taking into account the successful work down here?

MR. CAVANAUGH: I think I made clear already that we have had extraordinary success here, and that we intend to use the meetings with President Bush on Monday to reinforce this process. But we have already told you indeed that it is likely we will have another meeting in this format in Geneva. So it is premature at this point to talk about signing an agreement.

Q: Were the invitations to the White House a recognition of progress here, or was that an invitation that was going to be extended regardless what happened here?

MR. CAVANAUGH: I think it would be impossible to answer that question, but I think there can be no doubt at the importance that the White House attaches to the efforts that have been made here. It was already clear to the President that the process that was under way, he has been engaged in this issue from early on in this presidency. We have mentioned before that on the 10th day of this presidency, he discussed this problem with French President Jacques Chirac; on the 10th week of this presidency, he has had peace talks taking place in the United States to help advance resolution of this conflict; and on Monday, still within the first 100 days of his presidency, he will meet with both presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Q: Thank you. You made clear what was on the mental agreement between the two presidents. Could you tell us a little bit about the fundamental disagreement?

MR. CAVANAUGH: I will be honest. I mostly heard more agreement this week than disagreement, and the agreement principally on themes: agreement on the need for peace, agreement on the need to maintain the ceasefire, agreement on the need for speed, that people have been suffering too long; agreement on the need for international support to make peace possible; agreement on the appreciation of this new format.

Both presidents said repeatedly, in fact, that they feel this format that we have launched here in Key West is a prescription for advancement that has never existed before in this conflict. And I believe that because of it we are farther along today on a possible peace than we have ever been before.

Q: As the representative of the US Government, have you, as a matter of motivation, offered the two parties an economic package from IMF and World Bank if they continue and stick to the peace conference?

MR. CAVANAUGH: Let me say, IMF and World Bank -- the first one starts with "International" so that's many countries, not just the United States. The second one starts with "World." That's also all countries, not just the United States.

We have not said that if you find peace you get this financial package. We have instead made clear that if peace can be achieved, the international community stands ready to help. We had already told you that in May we had brought together over a dozen international agencies to begin addressing how to handle the problems of the resettlement of internally displaced people and refugees, how to handle the economic reconstruction of the entire region. There is a clear desire on the part of the international community to help.

I would add, the international community is helping today. There are enormous activities under way in Armenia and Azerbaijan by a variety of international players and nongovernmental organizations that may greatly improve the lives of people who live in those countries. At the same time, they cannot begin to undertake the type of activities there today with an unresolved conflict; that they can, once peace is achieved, peace in this region can unlock an ability for international players to help that cannot be done today. And both countries understand that.

Q: To fill out what you said related to Iran and Turkey, Ambassador, does this mean the possibility of their presence in the discussions next time, the next round, because Russia -- one of the neighbors, Russia, is present at the discussions. And Turkey and Iran representatives will also be able to stay in Geneva, or later on meetings?

MR. CAVANAUGH: I think we made it clear the appreciation of both presidents for this format, which they believe has moved them farther than it had ever moved before. We included that in, in fact, our communiqué. The plan is to repeat exactly this format in Geneva because of the success that it has borne here in Florida.

Q: And should we repeat any -- should we expect any meetings until June in Geneva, like direct dialogue between presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, or it's again up to them to decide?

MR. CAVANAUGH: Any direct dialogue of course is up to them to decide, but I think you will see that in the month or two between now and the onset of a meeting in Geneva that obviously there will be other sessions that involve co-chairmen and efforts to help advance peace.

Q: Why did you choose Geneva for the next round of talks, and not Moscow or Paris or Washington maybe?

MR. TRUBNIKOV: May I answer this question? Because I never was in Geneva. (Laughter.)

Q: Mr. Cavanaugh, can President Bush, an oil man, be considered an honest broker in this since Armenia is not an oil-producing country, I don't believe?

MR. CAVANAUGH: Of course he can. President Bush is the representative of the entire nation of the United States, over 275 million people. To say that because he had a background and experience in the oil industry would make him impossible to be an impartial participant in this peace process would be to say that since he had owned a baseball team he could no longer be an impartial judge of sports in the United States, or that because he came from the State of Texas, how could he do an impartial energy policy for the State of California. I think that makes no difference whatsoever. Indeed, I think what you will see is President Bush is identifying a commitment of the United States to help facilitate peace in areas where it's possible, where parties have shown a commitment to work together toward that goal. He will put resources of the United States, as we have done this week in Florida, to help advance that goal.

Q: The question about Iran. Can we assume that Iran will be included in some form in these talks or be involved in these talks, or not? And how does it fit in the United States on Bush Administration policy? Is this a new turn, or not? Can we say that this is an indication of the new policy towards Iran in the region, or not?

MR. CAVANAUGH: What we were asked about earlier was were we taking into account the opinions and concerns of populations in the region. And I believe I said quite clearly that we are, and that beyond that we were taking into account concerns of other states in the region, that we would be informing them of the progress that was achieved here this week in Key West, Florida. I think by saying "informing them of the progress" that does not imply, and should not suggest, in any form that we would change this negotiating format. We believe this format is an effective one, and the presidents have confirmed that to us.

What it means is indeed what I said: We will inform governments in the region, including the Government of Iran, about the success that has been achieved here, about efforts that are under way to bring peace to a region that borders Iran, and how those efforts do not infringe or impede upon the national interests of Iran.

Q: A question to Mr. Trubnikov. How does Russia see its role in this process after this stage of negotiations? Are there going to be any reevaluation?

MR. TRUBNIKOV: What do you mean, Russia should reevaluate? Its position, or what?

Q: Its position and role as -- maybe activity.

MR. TRUBNIKOV: Where?

Q: In this process. In the process of --

MR. TRUBNIKOV: You know, in this process, as Mr. Cavanaugh stressed, all of us, we absolutely equally stick to the position of consensus. This is one thing. Close cooperation, and not competition. And I do not think that Russia has to change or reevaluate its position. I do not see any scope and necessity for this.

Q: Could you tell us please what general principles of the format proposal could be included in the new format, and what are the compromises that both sides are ready to make?

MR. CAVANAUGH: No.

(Laughter.)

MR. REEKER: All right, we can take a last question there.

Q: Ambassador Cavanaugh, President Putin held the meeting with both presidents, and I believe President Chirac did the same. Why did President Bush hold separate meetings with the presidents?

MR. CAVANAUGH: I think that is a question that goes into micro-views of how governments work. It is clear the United States has been meeting with both presidents here all week long. We have been meeting them together, we have been meeting them separately. This will be the first occasion, I believe, for both men to meet President Bush. I think that is best done on their own terms directly and not as part of a larger meeting.

MR. REEKER: Okay, thank you all very much. Just a note, for those of you interested in covering the Washington meeting at the White House, if you want to see Liza Davis afterwards, she can give you some details on arranging accreditation for the White House.

Let me take this opportunity to thank our hosts here in Key West again for a terrific week of talks. It has been absolutely vital, those from the Truman Little White House, Key West authorities, the Pier House Hotel, which has supported our press filing center here, and thanks to all of you for participating.

MR. GAILLARDE: I would like to add one word. In the name of my Russian colleague and myself, I would like to thank very well the people of Key West and its hospitality, and to congratulate my American colleagues for this splendid organization of this conference.

MR. REEKER: Thank you all very much.

[end]



Released on April 6, 2001

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