Key West Talks
For the Resolution of the Karabakh Conflict

Armenian, Azeri Presidents Made "More Progress" Than They Expected

by Christophe de Roquefeuil

Date Released: April 7, 2001, Saturday
Source: Agence France Presse

Dateline: Key West, Florida, April 6
Armenia and Azerbaijan made more progress than expected at talks that wrapped up here Friday, seeking to end 13 years of bitter conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, a US negotiator said.

And a "new comprehensive proposal" to resolve the conflict will now be elaborated by Washington, Moscow and Paris ahead of another meeting between the two sides scheduled for June in Geneva.

"We achieved here more progress than expected," US ambassador Carey Cavanaugh told reporters, at the end of four days of talks Friday.

"We are much closer to peace than we were before the conference," said his French counterpart, Jean-Jacques Gaillarde.

The White House had announced earlier in the day that US President George W. Bush is to meet in Washington with Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev and Armenian President Robert Kotcharian, in separate meetings Monday.

Although it declined to state the purpose of the get-togethers, the news appeared to herald positive news.

Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister for Russia Viacheslav Trobnikov, the third diplomat in the troika mediating on behalf of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), called the negotiations "very satisfactory work."

From an outset of talks Tuesday when the two presidents had both made acid
remarks, the tone improved gradually. On Thursday, Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian expressed optimism over progress made on the third day of peace talks with Azerbaijani leaders in Key West, Florida.

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 ceasefire 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 in Key West Tuesday, calling on leaders of both countries to find a "mutually acceptable settlement" of their dispute.

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