Key West Talks
For the Resolution of the Karabakh Conflict
Briefing by Co-Chairs of Nagorno-Karabakh
Cavanaugh of U.S., Trubnikov of Russia, Gaillarde of France
Date: April 4, 2001
The three co-chairs of the Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks in Key West, Florida briefed reporters April 4 on the status of the negotiations.
Ambassador Jean-Jacques Gaillarde of France, First Deputy Foreign Minister Viacheslav Trubnikov of Russia, and Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh of the United States said they had met separately with President Robert Kocharian of Armenia and with President Heydar Aliyev of Azerbaijan, and with each country's delegation.
The two presidents have not met with each other since the opening of the talks and the departure of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Cavanaugh said.
"I would like to highlight for you that these talks continue to be marked by two very strong themes," said Cavanaugh. "One is the seriousness with which the two presidents are approaching this endeavor, and the commitment that they are showing us at every turn to try to find a peaceful resolution to this conflict. The other one is the cooperation among France, Russia and the United States in addressing this issue.... The strength of that cooperation, I believe, has given a greater impetus to these talks, and gives these talks a greater prospect for success."
Trubnikov said he agreed completely with that assessment, and that he thought the atmosphere of the session "might produce certain positive results."
Gaillarde added: "The presidents are willing to make decisive progress on the way to settlement, and we have a very good cooperation among us, very serious talks with the presidents and very good working atmosphere between us."
Cavanaugh said Kocharian and Aliyev "have highlighted again and again the suffering that their people have endured due to this conflict," and he added that "the local authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh I think understand that there is no benefit to anyone in this region, to them, to Armenia, to Azerbaijan, of renewed hostilities or fighting. And I hope and believe that what we are doing here this week is the best chance to help move this process forward."
Asked what is the biggest obstacle to a peace settlement, Cavanaugh answered that it is a question of compromise. He said:
"The two presidents have established a relationship with one another, and I think in their discussions over the past year it has been increasingly clear how important it will be to make compromises to achieve a lasting peace. They have done this because they have shifted their focus very firmly to the future, and they're looking at what will come for their country if peace can be achieved and what tragedy remains if peace cannot."
The two presidents have talked about the tremendous problems caused by the conflict, he said. "So they have moved, I think personally, very far along that path.
"I think the same cannot be said of the populations of Armenia and Azerbaijan. I think there is an understanding of the need for peace, there is a concern about the future, but there is less understanding today on all sides of how important it is to be prepared to make the compromises necessary to achieve a lasting peace."
Following is a transcript of the briefing
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
(Key West, Florida)
April 4, 2001
THREE CO-CHAIRS ON KEY WEST PEACE TALKS
April 4, 2001
Key West, Florida
MR. REEKER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome back to our media center here in Key West. A couple of administrative announcements just to begin our briefing this afternoon.
First, for members of the press, we are arranging a visit tomorrow to the Ernest Hemingway home and museum, which is one of Key West's premiere attractions of great interest historically and in terms of American literature. If you would be interested in that, please sign up afterwards here at the press center. We'll meet about 10:45 tomorrow morning - that's Thursday morning - walk eight blocks over to the museum and home, and we will have a tour just for our group put on by the curators there.
So that has been arranged?
MR. REEKER: Yes, it's a nice opportunity and we thank our hosts for helping arrange that.
We will endeavor to brief again tomorrow, but we will keep you posted. Please check in with the media center throughout the day so that you will know of any upcoming events. And let me just remind you this afternoon we will have comments from our briefers and then we will take questions. If you could wait for the microphone to be passed to you and then give your name and your media affiliation, we would appreciate that, and we will have a transcript later this afternoon available. The transcript is prepared in Washington and sent back to us here.
So with that I would again like to welcome you and I would like to thank our three briefers. They are the heads of the three delegations, the co-chairs of these Key West talks. We have Ambassador Jean-Jacques Gaillarde from France, First Deputy Foreign Minister Viacheslav Trubnikov from the Russian Federation, and Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh from the United States.
So why don't I let Ambassador Cavanaugh begin, and you have brief remarks, and then we'll take questions.
AMBASSADOR CAVANAUGH: Thank you. I fear it's a little difficult to offer you something as enticing as a trip to the Hemingway house, but let me say that we're very pleased to be here just four blocks from where Ernest Hemingway wrote A Farewell to Arms, working on putting that concept into reality in the South Caucasus. I think Hemingway did a marvelous job of highlighting the horrors of war, and we are dealing in the talks we have here today with presidents who have highlighted again and again the suffering that their people have endured due to this conflict, due to the problems in this region. And in that sense, it is also a fitting location I think to be tackling the questions that we are hoping to overcome and to resolve.
I would like to give you a brief outline of what has been going on since Secretary Powell left. The co-chairs had a series of meetings yesterday until late in the evening, primarily among the three of us, but also with representatives of the other delegations and some meetings with the presidents. I think many of you were aware that the presidents were both out and about yesterday evening. I know that President Aliyev was seen having pina coladas on the sundeck and watching the sunset over at the Pier House. I heard several reports of President Kocharian on Duvall Street, and also out and about on the island.
I am glad they are able to do that, because we have been working very diligently with them. They had a very busy day yesterday, and as I will describe shortly, they have had a busy day today as well.
To my knowledge, since Secretary Powell left, the two presidents have not met with one another. But again, they are certainly able to do so in the proximity of where they are at affords that if they feel a need for that.
This morning, at the Truman White House, the co-chairs had a lengthy meeting, and then we had President Kocharian come over and meet with us. We believe that meeting was quite useful. After that meeting concluded, we had a similar session with President Aliyev, which we feel was equally useful. Both sessions were promising. Both sessions were focused on the goal at hand.
After that, we had another group of the co-chairs meeting, us and our experts, and that leads us to this press conference now.
I would like to highlight for you that these talks continue to be marked by two very strong themes. One is the seriousness with which the two presidents are approaching this endeavor, and the commitment that they are showing us at every turn to try to find a peaceful resolution to this conflict. The other one is the cooperation among France, Russia and the United States in addressing this issue.
We have a common approach, we have a common goal - peace and stability in this region - and the strength of that cooperation, I believe, has given a greater impetus to these talks, and gives these talks a greater prospect for success.
So with that, let me stop here, and we can turn it to you for questions, or I will ask my colleagues if they wish to make any preliminary comments.
MR. TRUBNIKOV: I think that preliminary comments would be preemptive. That is why we consider that we work in consensus, that is why (inaudible) practically spoke in a way as we with my French colleague would be speaking. That is why I completely agree with the words of Mr. Cavanaugh about the atmosphere in which the discussions have been taking place.
We work, the co-chairs, closely together, elbow-to-elbow, we share our assessments, we share our opinions, we share our proposals and decide on them together. In the same manner, we talk to both presidents, and I think that the session atmosphere might produce certain positive results.
MR. GAILLARDE: Just a few words to support what my colleague said. The talks are taking place in a very good atmosphere, and of openness, of seriousness. The presidents are willing to make decisive progress on the way to settlement, and we have a very good cooperation among us, very serious talks with the presidents and very good working atmosphere between us.
AMBASSADOR CAVANAUGH: We can go to your questions.
As you have three of these speakers painted a beautiful picture, very pinkish, very hopeful. But yet, at the same time, while the peace talks are going on here starting yesterday, we are hearing war cries from Nagorno-Karabakh, the President Kocharian was saying that we want this land, we are not going to give it back, either we will go to war.
How do you reconcile what is the Armenian position vis-a-vis with the Azeris' position that they want their land back with the plain language. I appreciate it.
AMBASSADOR CAVANAUGH: Let me simply say that the messages we are hearing yesterday and today are ones that are directed at peace and not at conflict, and let me add, I have not seen the report to which you refer, that the discussions that we have had as co-chairs in even the recent past with Mr.Gukasian, have also been clear in his desire for a peaceful settlement.
The local authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh I think understand that there is no benefit to anyone in this region, to them, to Armenia, to Azerbaijan, of renewed hostilities or fighting. And I hope and believe that what we are doing here this week is the best chance to help move this process forward.
Is there any hope that Nagorno (inaudible) with Turkey will be included in these peace talks any time soon?
AMBASSADOR CAVANAUGH: We have always said that this process is one that evolves, and you have seen yourselves the evolution in the last few years from proposals presented by the Minsk Group, to a direct dialogue between the presidents, to the iteration in France that included both the presidents and President Chirac, and the format that is taking place this week in Key West.
What we have done, and what we will continue to do, is try to fit the formats to the peace process in the way that has the best chance at achieving concrete results. The three co-chairs - and I will here speak for the others - have always said that any solution has to be a solution that is acceptable and workable for all the population in the region, that brings peace, a durable, lasting peace, to everyone. So the process we are working on is one that does take into account the interests of all the population.
We have also said that at an appropriate point representatives from the Stepanakert would also need to be included in the process. They are not here this week. We don't think it would have been helpful at this point to have them here. So the option always remains open as to which step and at which point they would provide the greatest benefit to the peace process including them.
As for Turkey, Turkey is not a part of the negotiating framework that addresses this conflict. It is a member of the larger Minsk Group; in fact, there's about 12 countries that are members of that group. It plays a role there. It has shown a significant interest, which I think is understandable to everyone, in seeing resolution of this conflict. This is a conflict that is also on the borders of the Republic of Turkey, but it's not part of the negotiating.
Ambassador Cavanaugh, in one of the background briefings you have noted that Russia is clearly allied with one of the parties in the region. One can raise concern on the bipartisanship of Russia as the co-chair. What is your comment from that? And I would ask Mr. Trubnikov also to comment on that.
AMBASSADOR CAVANAUGH: I'll be glad to answer that. It's publicly known Russia has a defense relationship with the Republic of Armenia. At the same time, I think Russia has shown - and it has been evident in recent months - a desire to advance this peace process. Russian President Putin paid a state visit to Baku in early January. The national security advisor of Russia, Sergey Borisovich Ivanov did a shuttle diplomatic run in this region, also in January. He is now the defense minister, but I think the engagement shows you do not have to be perfectly neutral in this world to serve as a mediator in a conflict.
While there is a general sense greater neutrality is better, I think what is most important and what we have seen in this conflict is intent. And I think what we have seen - and very clearly in the past few months - is the intent of all three countries, as I stressed earlier, focused on the common goal of peace and stability in this region.
And I can tell you, without providing details - and maybe my colleagues will, but I suspect not - that in these discussions you would be surprised at the level and depth of cooperation and the common viewpoint and the common purpose to which our three nations are bringing to this task.
MR. TRUBNIKOV: I can only add that I am here in the capacity of one of three co-chairs, and I came here not to defend national interests of Russia and my motherland. I work together with my two colleagues in the interest of peace in the Caucasian region.
I have a question to Mr. Trubnikov, and actually it can be considered as a follow-up on the previous question.
The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh is more than ten years old. Russia always tried to mediate, to settle this conflict, but there were some shifts in the Russian position during this period of time. And my question is, how would you characterize the current Russian approach to the settlement of these conflicts? And some observers believe that actually Russia holds the keys to the settlement of this conflict because of its very close ties with Armenia. So what could be your comments on that? Thank you.
MR. TRUBNIKOV: I will stress my point of view on this. The keys to the solution of the conflict are in the hands of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Russia doesn't have this key. We will be satisfied completely with any solution acceptable to both sides. This is the final and practically the most workable position of Russia of today.
I wanted to - you said that the two presidents have not met together since Powell left. Did they meet together for any length of time before that? In fact, do you see any kind of a negative indication in the fact that they haven't met together today? I mean, we are here for a few days more, but if they don't meet it seems like there's not much chance to make progress.
Would you agree with that?
AMBASSADOR CAVANAUGH: Actually, let me take issue with that and let me start first by saying, to my knowledge, they have not met since Secretary Powell left. Yesterday they met together for lunch. They had lunch together. Then we had a very lengthy plenary session together. Part of that session, the opening of that session, was covered by the press so you were also able to see indeed that they were both seated at the same table, not two feet away from one another, able to interact with each other well, able to deal with each other well.
The intent of the format that we are pursuing here is one that is designed to offer them something more than simply the ability to meet with one another. We had talked earlier before coming to Key West about how they have been able to meet one-on-one for over two years. That has been productive. That has been helpful. It has served to move this peace process forward.
What we are doing here in Key West this week is providing something beyond that. They have always had the ability to meet together. What they have here is the ability to do that but, in addition, to work with all three of our countries in a fashion where we can serve as mediators and intermediaries. And we believe in fact that that is the primary purpose of the meetings that are taking place this week in Key West. So the fact that they don't meet with one another every day, in fact is not necessarily a bad sign. It can even be construed to be a good sign because they are busy working directly with us and we directly with them.
Q: You were talking about close cooperation between co-chairs. Can we assume that you have something - if you wish, you can call it plan or proposal - that all three countries support? Can we say that, that there is a plan under the discussion right now that three countries' co-chairs are supporting strongly?
AMBASSADOR CAVANAUGH: I think what I said already is that we have very clearly common aims and common goals, that the cooperation is intense and it is focused. I don't think there is a need to characterize - sort of, are those plans, are those strategies or tactics. It should be apparent that in bringing two presidents together and having them use fully a week - in fact more of their time to engage in such a pursuit of peace.
We don't come to Florida without any ideas or concepts of how to proceed. Obviously we in fact have worked on that intensely before we invited them to come to the United States, after they accepted those invitations. We have almost constant communications between France, Russia and the United States on this issue and has been highlighted earlier communications, not simply at our level, but at the level of foreign ministers, of presidents, of national security advisors.
All of that comes into focus in the efforts we are doing here with the two presidents.
I would like to ask a question about the methodology of the work. Do you single out some particular issues that you believe are supposedly the best tools, talk about these at a specific time and try to resolve those questions, or you are moving sort of in a general direction on a general front?
AMBASSADOR CAVANAUGH: I don't think it would be beneficial to provide details, comments on that kind of question beyond that we are focusing on one key issue, and that is peace.
My question to Mr. Trubnikov. Mr. Trubnikov, there are some rumors that the next stage of the peace talks will take place in Moscow, and Mr. Putin will host as president. I don't know if it is true or not. Could you please give us some information. If this is true, what -
MR. TRUBNIKOV: I understand.
When are you -
MR. TRUBNIKOV: You correctly started your question with rumors. (Laughter.) So this is a limit to which I might come near, not more.
Just to follow up. As my colleague said, Russia has probably more influence over Armenia than over Azerbaijan because of its close cooperation with Armenia, which is considered as a close ally of Russia. And are you - is Russia planning to use its influence to let's say make Armenia more agreeable on some issues, particularly on the issue of independence of Nagorno-Karabakh, the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, even though Russia is fighting separately on its own soil with Chechnya and - are you planning to use this influence to explain to your Armenian friends that separatism is not good for any country?
MR. TRUBNIKOV: I can repeat what I already said are the keys to the solution of the problem are in the hands of two countries. Russia is not going to use any kind of arm-twisting tactics. This is one thing. The second thing is that we, as the three co-chairs, we use our influence together, despite the country, be it Armenia, be it Azerbaijan. We do not work separately.
Can you talk a little bit about the human relations that have developed out of these talks that have gone on for years and years? Does it get any easier, or are they at least not as wary of each other now that they know each other?
AMBASSADOR CAVANAUGH: Let me try to give you a personal viewpoint on that, and obviously the best source for that would be the presidents themselves. But I think it goes without saying that having had 15 meetings in the last two years, both of the presidents have established a personal relationship. They have gained in those discussions a much clearer understanding of the other, and I think that has offered up for the process of peace a greater potential, because they have had not third-hand accounts, but direct accounts of the importance of moving ahead, of the cost of this tragic conflict in human terms, and of the desires of both men for the future. They sit and talk directly with one another, they have no problem with that. They have an ability to have a dialogue on a wide range of issues, and that can be nothing but beneficial to this process.
If everything goes as well as could be expected this week, can you venture a forthcoming venue or timeframe for your next step in the negotiations?
AMBASSADOR CAVANAUGH: I think in a sense that is the question that has already been raised with my Russian colleague, and the next step in these peace negotiations is very clear: it's tonight, where we are likely to be meeting again with one or both of the presidents, and beyond that, it's tomorrow. We have a significant perspective still that won't take us off this island. Keep in mind, often in the past when they have met, it has been for two hours or three hours. Today is Wednesday; they are here through Saturday. We have three full days ahead of us where there will be further discussions with the presidents, among ourselves, potentially with the presidents together to move this forward. It would be impossible and in any sense to predict from this point what lies ahead in the next few days.
AMBASSADOR CAVANAUGH: As I said, it's impossible because we don't know how far they can go and what may be accomplished. I think what is clear, and we have made it clear in all three capitals, is that our countries are prepared to do what we can to help facilitate the pursuit of peace in this region. And if that means bringing them to Florida or to Paris or to Moscow or to Yalta - wherever - if we believe that is beneficial to advance peace in this region, we will look into doing that.
Are you discussing any kind of support the international community could provide to both countries in the case that they reach this agreement? In other words, do you have a complete consensus from the three countries you are representing for them to make peace?
AMBASSADOR CAVANAUGH: Again, I would go back to our desire not to delve into concrete details of the discussions, but I would note that it is already public that in the past we have talked about international support for this region if peace can be achieved. The three co-chairs held a major meeting with international institutions in May in Geneva. We have been in touch with the World Bank, the UN High Commissioner on Refugees and other international institutions in the past few months as to possible steps that could be taken to help with the resettlement and reconstruction of this region.
I would add that recently, the European Union Presidency paid an enhanced troika visit to the region, led by the Foreign Minister of Sweden, where she also spoke about some steps that could be done to help with the economic development of the region, both absent peace but even more with peace. It is very clear that the international community is prepared to help this region, and I believe it is even more clear that if peace can be achieved, even more can be done there.
You said that you met today in the morning with both presidents. In your opinion, the countries - which party is more ready to compromise to find a final agreement?
AMBASSADOR CAVANAUGH: We return to the comment I made earlier of how impressed we are with the commitment of both presidents to pursue peace here in Florida.
I want to just follow up my colleague's words. Actually what President Robert Kocharian, who told that if need be, after the Florida meeting, or when we meet in Moscow, that's why we take the words of the President as the basis in our questions.
And the question is to Mr. Trubnikov. I know that the talks are confidential and (inaudible) any details, but still, can we get at least a notion on - I just want to remind you that the problem is not purely Nagorno-Karabakh, but Azerbaijan has its six regions beyond Nagorno-Karabakh on the Armenian occupation, and I wonder if this question was raised in discussions. Do you make any clear distinctions between Nagorno-Karabakh and six other regions beyond Nagorno-Karabakh, which under Armenian occupation?
MR. TRUBNIKOV: I might just tell that all the aspects of peaceful solution are under consideration and discussion. That's all.
You spoke about the dedication of both presidents to reaching an agreement. What would you say is the biggest obstacle to a peace settlement? And that's a question for any and all of the three who would reply.
AMBASSADOR CAVANAUGH: I'll give an answer that perhaps the presidents might not even like, but I think the obstacles grows out of the direct dialogue that we were asked about earlier.
The two presidents have established a relationship with one another, and I think in their discussions over the past year it has been increasingly clear how important it will be to make compromises to achieve a lasting peace. They have done this because they have shifted their focus very firmly to the future, and they're looking at what will come for their country if peace can be achieved and what tragedy remains if peace cannot.
President Aliyev and President Kocharian have talked about the economic problems facing their countries, the dislocated people, the people who are today still in refugee camps. So they have moved, I think personally, very far along that path.
I think the same cannot be said of the populations of Armenia and Azerbaijan. I think there is an understanding of the need for peace, there is a concern about the future, but there is less understanding today on all sides of how important it is to be prepared to make the compromises necessary to achieve a lasting peace.
MR. REEKER: Thank you very much. I'd like to thank all three of our co-chairmen for coming, and thank all of you. We'll look for you again tomorrow.