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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2001 > April

Remarks with President Kocharian of Armenia, and President Aliyev of Azerbaijan at Key West Peace Talks

Secretary Colin L. Powell

Key West, Florida
April 3, 2001

SECRETARY POWELL: It is a great pleasure to open this conference and to welcome our distinguished guests, the President of Azerbaijan and the President of Armenia, and our distinguished co-chairs from the Russian Federation and from France. It is a great pleasure for me to, on behalf of President Bush, welcome all here.

This is a very important meeting. It is a step in a process toward reconciliation and peace in the region. We are pleased to have the opportunity to host this meeting in this very historic place known as the Little White House. It was used first by President Truman, but many other American Presidents have used this place. It is a quiet place, it is a simple place, it is a humble place, but it is a place where great things have happened over the course of America's history for the last 50 or 60 years. It is a place where many world leaders have assembled, and we are pleased to have these world leaders with us here today as we seek a solution to this crisis, which has bedeviled the region for too long.

So a great pleasure to welcome the two presidents and my co-chair colleagues and our distinguished ambassador who has done such a terrific job in helping in this effort. I would now like to begin the conference by asking President Aliyev for his comments.

PRESIDENT ALIYEV: Dear Secretary of State Powell, dear Minsk conference co-chairs, dear participants, dear media representatives, ladies and gentlemen.

First of all, allow me to express my appreciation to you, Mr. Secretary of State, for your invitation to visit the United States of America. I express my gratitude to the US Administration, the Key West authorities, and all the organizers of the meeting for hospitality and excellent working conditions.

Special character of this meeting is defined by the fact that for the first time the OSCE Minsk Group has gathered in such a format when OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs along with the President of Armenia and Azerbaijan and other participants plan to discuss peaceful resolution of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Regretfully, such a meeting's format has never been used in the past. Maybe it is one of the reasons why we have failed to reach a success until now. I hope that the current meeting will play a positive role in the resolution of the conflict, which has been going on for more than 12 years.

The history of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh military conflict is quite well known to the international community. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that this is one of the conflicts in the world which is not being resolved for a long time.

It is known that this conflict stemmed from the territorial claims toward Azerbaijan by Armenia, which tried to seize and annex Nagorno-Karabakh, an indigenous part of Azerbaijan. It happened in 1988 when Armenia and Azerbaijan still were sister republics within the Soviet Union. However, as a result of unjust position of the Soviet leadership towards Azerbaijan, and possibly because of their unwillingness to prevent the conflict, it has grown and escalated into a war.

I would like to emphasize that back in 1921 the government of Azerbaijan granted the status of autonomous region to the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, and the region enjoyed all the rights of autonomy. Thus, there were no objective reasons whatsoever for the eruption of this conflict. At the moment when the conflict started, 185,000 people were living in Nagorno-Karabakh; 74 percent of them were Armenians and 25.2 percent Azerbaijanis.

Armenia, striving to realize its territorial claims against the neighboring country of Azerbaijan, has provoked separatist forces in Nagorno-Karabakh to an armed confrontation. Later, Armenia itself started a military aggression against Azerbaijan.

Nagorno-Karabakh has fallen fully under military control of separatists and the Armenian armed forces, which carried out an ethnic cleansing by forcibly expelling the whole Azerbaijani population of 50,000 from there. This process was marked by murders and violence, and the genocide was carried out against the Azerbaijani population in the town of Khojaly.

After occupying Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenian armed forces escalated their military operations beyond the borders of the Nagorno-Karabakh region and additionally occupied seven large administrative regions of Azerbaijan outside of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Thus, 20 percent of the territory of Azerbaijan had been occupied by the year 1993 and at present continues to remain under the occupation of Armenian armed forces. Everything on that territory is destroyed, looted, razed to earth. More than 900 large and small settlements, about 600 schools, 250 health care institutions, all museums, historical and cultural monuments have been destroyed.

During the conflict, 30,000 Azerbaijani citizens perished, over 200,000 were wounded and maimed, thousands were taken prisoner, became hostages and are missing. About a million Azerbaijanis, one out of every eight citizens of our country, have been forced out from their land and have been living in tents under unbearable hardships for already nine years. A new generation has grown up in tents.

It is hard to find any other parallel situation in the world when one state has occupied other state's territories, carried out an ethnic cleansing there in a massive scale, and the world community silently observes this tragedy. Azerbaijan's justified demands to curb the aggressor is not given a support.

Nine years ago, on March 24, 1992, the Council of Ministers of the CSCE, at its special meeting in Helsinki, decided to hold the Minsk Conference aimed at reaching a comprehensive settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Thus, an international body was established to deal with the resolution of the conflict. This decision, which defined the mandate of the Minsk Conference and framework for the negotiation process, was extremely important.

In 1993, the UN Secretary Council had several times debated the issue of the Armenian armed occupation of Azerbaijani territories. Four resolutions have been adopted on April 30th and July 29th, October 14th and on November 11th.

In this resolution, the United Nations Security Council resolutely demanded immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, as well as creating conditions for the return of refugees and internally displaced people to their homes and native lands. The United Nations absolutely supported sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan and reaffirmed the Nagorno-Karabakh region as a part of Azerbaijan. The Security Council also supported mediating the role of the CSCE Minsk Group.

However, all these resolutions have not been implemented, and the United Nations Security Council has not bothered itself to follow up on enforcing its own decisions.

In December of 1994, during the CSCE Budapest Summit, a decision was made to intensify the activities of the CSCE on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The CSCE heads of state defined the step-by-step nature of settlement and instructed the CSCE Minsk Conference co-chairs to work out an agreement on cessation of the armed conflict. The agreement was to envisage elimination of the main consequences of the conflict for all sides, and to become the basis for convening the Minsk Conference. A decision was also made to deploy multinational peacekeeping forces of the CSCE to the conflict zone.

At the OSCE Lisbon Summit, in December of 1996, a basic formula for settlement of the conflict was defined. All the OSCE member-states, with the exception of the Republic of Armenia, supported three main principles of the settlement, which ensured the territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan, granting the highest degree of self-rule for the Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan, with security guarantees for its whole population.

Thus, the international community has defined legal basis for settlement, established framework for negotiations and identified tasks for mediators.

Since the OSCE Lisbon summit, Russia, United States and France, the three largest nations in the world, are the Minsk Group co-chairs. We placed high expectations on them, counted on their efforts to achieve resolution of the conflict, restore territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, and return refugees to their homes. But unfortunately, until now, it did not happen. Armenia does not carry out all decisions made by the United Nations and OSCE.

The Minsk Group co-chairs have put forward three proposals on settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The first proposal submitted in June of 1997 consisted of the package solution of the conflict. The second, as of October 1997, was based on step-by-step solution. In November of 1998, the co-chairs made a new third proposal on "common state."

Azerbaijan accepted the first and the second proposals of the co-chairs as basis for negotiations despite the fact that some of their articles contradicted norms and principles of international law, encroached on the principle of territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. But even under these circumstances, Armenia refused to accept these proposals and held clearly unconstructive position.

We did not accept the proposal of co-chairs on common state. The term "common state" which has no international law basis, implies that the Nagorno-Karabakh is an independent state and territorial entity, and grants it equal with Azerbaijan the status of the subject of the common state. This proposal fully contradicts norms and principles of the international law, deprives Azerbaijan from a part of its territory, and actually legitimizes Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan.

We consider that co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, guided by the principles of international law, have to exert more effective influence over the negotiation process, promote settlement of the conflict, restoration of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity, and return of refugees to their homes as soon as possible. The Nagorno-Karabakh, an inalienable part, an integral part of Azerbaijan, can be granted high degree of self-rule within Azerbaijan.

Unfortunately, the co-chairs have been mainly busy with mediating without exerting necessary influence over the process of negotiations in compliance with the norms of international law. Our hopes for the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, represented by Russia, the US, and France, have not brought the expected results yet.

Since April of 1999, at the initiative of the US Administration, face-to-face meetings between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan started, the first one taking place in Washington. Since then, we have had numerous meetings with President Kocharian in Geneva, Moscow, Istanbul, Paris, Davos, Yalta and also at the border between our countries.

During our dialogue with the President of Armenia, we were mainly engaged in a search for mutual acceptable compromises for a peaceful resolution of the conflict and establishing a lasting peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan. I would like to emphasize that by the end of 1999, we were close to achieving compromise. But soon afterwards, Armenia has renounced on the agreement reached.

During the difficult negotiations, the Armenian side has always taken a tough and unconstructive position. We cannot come to an agreement because the position of the Armenian side at these talks is based on the presumption that having occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijani territory, it has an advantage. Armenia by all means tries to seize part of the territory of Azerbaijan, annex it, or gain the status of independence for the Nagorno-Karabakh.

Regretfully, the meetings between two presidents have led to the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs holding a waiting and passive position, reducing their activities to the principle, "Whatever the presidents agree upon will be acceptable for the OSCE."

We, on the other side, consider that the meetings of the presidents do not substitute for the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs' activities. Vice versa, they are mutually complimenting and should ensure that the negotiation process progresses into final resolution of the conflict.

In compliance with norms and principles of the international law and the UN Charter, the territorial integrity, inviolability of frontiers of every independent state, member of the United Nations, should be respected by all, especially by the OSCE, which has undertaken responsibility for resolution of this conflict. The OSCE and its Minsk Group must strongly adhere to this principle and by all means promote its strict observance.

However, the current situation in the peace process creates a dangerous precedent in international relations. Instead of respecting norms and principles of international law and strengthening them rigorously, indecisiveness on the part of international community is witnessed. Such fundamental norms and principles of international law as territorial integrity, inviolability of borders are being questioned, thus damaging the basis for the decades-old international practice of international law just to please 100,000 Armenians who live in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. Obviously, peace, stability and security achieved as a result of acceptance of military aggression can be neither strong nor lasting.

Having described the history of the current situation in the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, I declare that Azerbaijan remains to be committed to peace and upholding the cease-fire, which was established in May of 1994. We will continue to make further efforts aimed at achieving comprehensive and peaceful resolution of the conflict.

At the same time, I think all that I have just told you gives you an opportunity to realize the difficult situation we have found ourselves in. Therefore, I appeal to Russia, US and France, co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, to intensify their activities in order to put an end to this military conflict and establish lasting peace.

There is no need to prove that Azerbaijan, with 20 percent of its territory under occupation, hundreds of thousands of citizens living in tents, is most interested in ending the conflict and achieving peace. It is absolutely clear that peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan will have enormous impact on stability and security in the whole South Caucasus.

We have arrived at the meeting with great expectations, and we count on active efforts by Russia, US and France, co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, and also on the constructive position of the Republic of Armenia.

Thank you for your attention.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Mr. President. And now I call on the President of Armenia, President Kocharian.

PRESIDENT KOCHARIAN: Distinguished Secretary of State, distinguished co-chairs, distinguished ladies and gentlemen. Let me at the very outset express my gratitude to the co-chairs of the Minsk Group who have made possible for us as intermediaries and mediators in this process to have this get-together and to once again discuss the means of ways to resolve this protracted conflict. And certainly I am very thankful to the US, who is kind enough to become hosts, giving this site to have this round of talks here.

I am sure most of you in this room, save perhaps some correspondents here, are well aware of both of the history of this conflict, its current status. They know it in depth and in detail; there is no need for me once again to go back in it or to come up with any assessment at this time.

I have not made these many miles of a trip to Florida to try this propaganda campaign here or to be a tutor to co-chairs. No, I have come here to work constructively to seek settlement.

And that is the end of my statement. Thank you very much.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much for that short statement, and I think we can thank the press at this point and ask to be excused for the rest of our meeting.

[end]



Released on April 3, 2001

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