Key West Talks
For the Resolution of the Karabakh Conflict

Armenia Expresses Optimism at Key West Talks with Azerbaijan

by Christophe de Roquefeuil

Date Released: April 6, 2001, Friday
Source: Agence France Presse

Dateline: Key West, Florida, April 5
Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian expressed optimism here Thursday over progress made on the third day of talks with Azerbaijani leaders to seek a solution to the 13-year dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.

"As far as we are concerned things are looking okay," Oskanian told reporters on the sidelines of talks here.

"Certainly there are some complications because this is a very complicated process, but overall we think things are moving forward," he said.

Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev and Armenian President Robert Kocharian, meeting here for an intensive four- to six-day session of talks, had a day earlier demonstrated "seriousness and commitment," mediating officials said.

That tone was a marked contrast to sharp words exchanged by both parties Tuesday at the outset of the meeting.

"If we will know things are going okay also for the other side, then we may have something to be celebrating about before we leave this island," Oskanian added, ahead of a resumption of talks Thursday evening, to be held on a sea-cruiser in an event organized by the delegation of US officials participating in the talks.

"There are ideas, there are principles; they are not new ones; they are the ones the two presidents were discussing in Paris," Oskanian added. "If there is an agreement on the principles, we may eventually have something on paper."

Azerbaijani officials were unavailable for comment Thursday.

The United States, Russia and France are mediating the conflict here at Key West by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Karabakh is a tiny strip of mountainous land in southwestern Azerbaijan. In Soviet times it possessed an 80 percent Armenian majority. In 1988, its local assembly voted to be administered by Yerevan and not Baku.

Fighting broke out among villagers and turned into full-scale war with the breakup of the Soviet Union. More than 30,000 were killed from both sides, with around one million people driven from their homes during the course of the dispute.

A cease-fire was signed in 1994 but peace talks have dragged on ever since. At the heart of the deadlock remains the status of Karabakh. Baku is offering "the highest level of autonomy," but the Armenians are holding out for recognition of their Nagorno-Karabakh republic.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell opened the talks Tuesday, calling on leaders of both countries to find a "mutually acceptable settlement" of their dispute.

Powell returned to Washington later in the day but said he would not rule out returning to Key West to advance the process during talks expected to last through the week.

German Cooperation Minister to Tour Caucasus

Dateline: Berlin, April 6
German Cooperation Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul is to visit three countries in the Caucasus next week to look at ways of strengthening cooperation, her ministry said Friday.

She leaves Sunday for Azerbaijan and is to visit Georgia on Tuesday and Armenia on Wednesday.

Her trip comes as German Chanceller Gerhard Schroeder holds a summit in St. Petersburg on Monday and Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Wieczorek-Zeul said she wanted to "give a strong impetus in development policy in order to reinforce regional cooperation," the communique said.

Germany has given Georgia 189.18 million euros (170 million dollars) in aid since 1992.

It has so far given Armenia 83.34 million euros and Azerbaijan 90.5 million euros in aid under cooperation accords reached in 1993.

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