Key West Talks
For the Resolution of the Karabakh Conflict
Briefing on Bush Meetings with Armenia, Azerbaijan Presidents
Date: April 9, 2001
Source: U.S. Department of State
Senior administration officials briefed reporters April 9 on President Bush's meetings with President Robert Kocharian of Armenia and President Heydar Aliyev of Azerbaijan at the White House earlier in the day, and said last week's peace talks in Key West, Florida between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh had been "very successful."
The briefers said Bush met with Kocharian and Aliyev separately, accompanied by Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh, one of the three co-chairs of the Key West talks.
"Both meetings were extremely warm in tone. Both meetings consisted of, from the American side, President Bush expressing his support for the efforts that both countries have made for peace, appreciation for the progress, understanding that there remains a good deal of work to be done," a briefer said.
There are plans for Aliyev and Kocharian to meet again in Switzerland in June, a briefer said. "Switzerland has already said it will help facilitate with this process, because of the substantial movement forward that was achieved last week in Florida."
The talks in Switzerland will involve the same format as the Key West talks - jointly chaired by the three co-chairs of the Minsk group, the United States, France and Russia. The Minsk group consists of 11 member nations of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as well as Azerbaijan and Armenia, which are working to find a solution to the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.
The three co-chairs' role is "facilitative," said a briefer: "It's to help both leaders as they try to craft a compromise that can lead to a durable settlement."
In summarizing the April 3-6 Florida talks, a briefer said: "Both presidents have come into these discussions with an understanding that the only way to find a durable peace is through serious compromise. That has been the hallmark of their efforts. It is, I think, the most difficult task that faces them, both at the bargaining table and in returning to their publics to gain broad support for this. But they understand this is the only way to craft for their countries the kind of futures they believe that their people deserve."
The briefer said the exact nature of the Florida talks is confidential.
"We have said repeatedly that any solution that would bring about a durable settlement has to be a solution that is acceptable to the general populace in the region," he added.
Following is the White House transcript of the briefing:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
April 9, 2001
PRESS BACKGROUND BRIEFING ON PRESIDENT BUSH'S MEETINGS WITH ARMENIAN PRESIDENT KOCHARIAN AND AZERBAIJAN PRESIDENT ALIYEV BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS
James S. Brady Briefing Room
4:42 P.M. EDT
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And this is a background briefing on the President's meeting with President [Robert] Kocharian of Armenia, and President [Heydar] Aliyev of Azerbaijan, and the Key West [Florida] talks that led up to today's meeting.
Very briefly, both presidents came in to see President Bush; President Kocharian first; President Aliyev second. Both meetings were attended by the President, the Vice President, Secretary Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Ambassador Cavanaugh, and NSC staff.
Both meetings were extremely warm in tone. Both meetings consisted of, from the American side, President Bush expressing his support for the efforts that both countries have made for peace, appreciation for the progress, understanding that there remains a good deal of work to be done.
The President encouraged both leaders - again, in separate meetings - to keep at the process, to work to overcome the differences. And all of the parties to the discussion agreed that peace will bring considerable benefits to the region, to the peoples of both countries and to the entire South Caucuses region and beyond.
This was a follow-on to the very successful discussions held in Key West last week. And to discuss those talks and the general context, before we go to questions, I'll turn to the other faceless and anonymous senior administration official.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's always a pleasure to be both faceless and anonymous.
Let me just say that both presidents have now been in the United States for more than a week. They both chose to take an enormous amount of their time to come here to work on peace. They engaged very seriously and diligently in Florida. We were surprised, indeed, at how far they came. The talks that we had in Florida were sponsored by the OSCE, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and specifically by the Minsk group co-chairs, which are the countries of Russia, France and the United States.
The two presidents came to work directly with negotiating teams from those three countries but, in fact, the talks themselves were opened by Secretary Powell on Tuesday. Powell then left and returned to Washington and we continued in a proximity format through late Friday night.
The presidents were building upon discussions that had taken place in France earlier this year, where they met with French President Chirac, on the 26th of January and on the 6th of March. And what we were doing in Florida was working on concepts that had been discussed in France, in putting them into concrete terms.
The co-chairmen of the Minsk group admitted in a public forum that we were working on a new proposal. The Key West proposal was not completed by Friday evening, but the presidents and the co-chairmen felt that substantial progress had been made there toward wrapping up the outlines and details of what could form a potential peace agreement. There was agreement by both presidents to continue this format.
There are plans to meet again in Switzerland in June. We discussed that this morning at the State Department with the Swiss Foreign Minister. Switzerland has already said it will help facilitate with this process, because of the substantial movement forward that was achieved last week in Florida.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: One other point to emphasize. The forward movement, of course, was the achievement of the two presidents and their two delegations, Presidents Kocharian and Aliyev. But the stage was set for this progress by the very close cooperation among the Minsk group co-chairs, Russia, France and the United States. I think it's fair to say that President Putin and President Chirac have both been engaged, as has President Bush. This cooperation has been the subject of discussions between the French, Russian and American governments for the lifetime of this young administration - of course, before, in the previous administration.
But President Bush has been engaged in this, Secretary Powell has been engaged in this. So this is an example of genuine cooperation in the Minsk group, which has in fact yielded genuine results. And we're very pleased by that aspect of the progress last week. Questions, please.
I wonder if you could tell us the nature of the progress that has been achieved, are they territorial in nature? Are they political? Is there any way you can describe them?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me say what we said in Florida. Both presidents have come into these discussions with an understanding that the only way to find a durable peace is through serious compromise. That has been the hallmark of their efforts. It is, I think, the most difficult task that faces them, both at the bargaining table and in returning to their publics to gain broad support for this. But they understand this is the only way to craft for their countries the kind of futures they believe that their people deserve.
The nature of the talks themselves, they have asked that we keep those confidential. The United States, Russia and France have respected that. I think we have seen in the past year alone how difficult it can be to achieve peace and the problems that develop when pieces of a potential peace settlement leak before a final package is assembled.
This is enormously hard work. In fact, many would say peace efforts is the most difficult work. But what we have seen here is a very strident and diligent commitment by both men to try to find a solution.
Is the administration going to participate in the Swiss continuation?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The Swiss talks will be conducted in the same basis as the previous talks; that is, under the OSCE Minsk group. And I imagine the formula will be very similar.
Is that a no?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, that's a yes. The two presidents confirmed in Florida that this has been so successful a format that they wanted that repeated again. And they made clear also they wanted very little time lag between the meeting that just concluded this weekend in Key West and the one that would start in Switzerland.
There, in fact, is some time lag to be able to have both their sides and the three co-chair countries do preparations because, again, as I said earlier, what they are working on now is not abstract concepts, but concrete details.
Do you know what the U.S. role will be?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The U.S. role is a facilitative one, just as is the role of Russia and France. It's to help both leaders as they try to craft a compromise that can lead to a durable settlement.
I mean, in June, is someone specific going that you know of already?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I will go.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What the anonymous gentleman means to say is that, Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh, who is the Minsk group co-chair, will no doubt be there. I don't know what the first person pronoun refers to. (Laughter.)
A source close to the administration. (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. Sources intimately familiar with Ambassador Cavanaugh's thinking have revealed to me that he may be there. (Laughter.)
How far apart are the two sides, and do you envision the Switzerland meeting as possibly sealing some sort of agreement?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You're getting into the diplomatic graveyard of predictions. Wouldn't venture to do it. I must say, as someone who is not Ambassador Cavanaugh and did not participate in the Key West talks, that I was impressed by the progress that was made. It was at the optimistic end of what I felt was possible. But this is serious business. There are serious issues left remaining I wouldn't begin to predict.
President Aliyev said after the meeting with President Bush that they discussed bilateral relations, development of Caspian energy resources and conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh. Could you tell us what questions did President Bush discuss with Armenian President Kocharian, besides the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think it's fair to say that President Bush discussed the historic friendship between the American and Armenian peoples. He emphasized the support of the United States for Armenia's democratic and free market transformation. They discussed - as, indeed, was discussed with President Aliyev - the future of the region, which will be greatly brightened by peace, which will open the door to investment.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me add one piece to that, that came up both in the discussion with President Aliyev and the President of Armenia.
And that is that if peace can be achieved between Armenia and Azerbaijan, there is a direct spill-over effect in the region and there is a belief on the part of both presidents that this will help improve the very difficult situation in Georgia today, that Shevardnadze's situation has been exacerbated by the continuation of this conflict and this instability. If a solution can be found here, that that is both a positive example for others to find peace, but it is also a positive engine for the economic development and reconstruction of the region that would have a direct benefit to Georgia and other countries in the region.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Quite right.
To what extent did oil and energy issues come up in these meetings?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Very much a secondary or tertiary theme. The focus was on the peace talks and what they would mean for the region. Obviously, what they would mean for the region would be economic development and energy in that context is important. It's well known that the United States supports energy development in that region, but that was not a focus of the discussions.
Do you anticipate that the talks in Switzerland will be on this four- or five-day format, like you had in Key West, or are you going back to one day, in and out?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, the expectation is that it will mirror directly what happened in Key West. It may, by virtue of the fact that the presidents don't have to fly across the Atlantic, be maybe only three or four days, because you won't need to allow for a recovery time from jet lag.
But the feeling the presidents expressed to us was that proximity talks in which they have the repeated ability to engage and the ability to work and refine positions is much more productive to them now than simply a brief meeting and then meet a month or two later.
Can you give us an approximate date - early June, or late June, when it's going to start?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's dependent on the schedules of everyone who needs to participate, which, as you would guess, is quite complex when it is both two presidents from the region, three delegations from other European countries, and also when facilities that are well suited for these kinds of talks are available in Switzerland.
You said that in Key West that you don't exclude that - future, the co-chairs think that if Karabakh-Armenians, their leadership will join the talks, if it could be beneficial. Yesterday, the foreign minister of Azerbaijan said that Azerbaijan will never accept this formula - Karabakh-Armenians will participate as a third party in these negotiations; it could be just only the President - like Azerbaijani and Armenian community. Do you have plans to bring Karabakh-Armenians to Geneva, or it's after the President -
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The Minsk group co-chairs have always said that at an appropriate time, that local representatives in Stepanakert would be brought into this process, and we've already said that their needs and their viewpoints are always taken into account as this process moves forward.
There's communication between them and the President of Armenia, there's communication between them and the Minsk group co-chairs. It was deemed not the right time to have them come to Key West, Florida, and I think what we saw by the results achieved in Florida, that that was an effective formula.
What both presidents asked us to do at the end of those talks in Florida was to repeat that formula. So I would not expect that they would be included in the talks that will be held in Switzerland.
How about the statement - was making in The Los Angeles Times that, if you don't participate in these peace talks, we're not going to accept any agreement signed without our participation? I mean, do you take this seriously, or do you think that he's trying to put pressure on the negotiations?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I've not seen that specific report. It would not surprise me to see him say that. We have said repeatedly that any solution that would bring about a durable settlement has to be a solution that is acceptable to the general populace in the region. It's obvious, then, that if you want a lasting peace, it is not a peace that's imposed on anyone; it's a peace that these leaders are able to craft in direct discussions with one another with help from the cochair mediating teams from Russia, France and the United States, and one that they think the populace in the region can embrace.
In that sense, their needs, their desires will be reflected in any workable settlement, if one can be achieved.
You just said that if acceptable in the region by the leaders - how about the people of the region? Do you envisage the referendum in the republics? Or let's say if a peace plan is accepted by both presidents, is there an option for you to be ratified peace plan in the parliament or not?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think what I just said, in fact, is it has to be acceptable to the general population in the region. I think there is an understanding, both on the part of the Presidents and others that you can't simply have an agreement accepted by two men, even if they're the leaders of the country, if it didn't take into account the needs of the people.
Obviously, though, leaders of these countries would never decide they supported an agreement that they thought their people could not embrace or that could not be workable to bring about a lasting peace.
Which means that peace agreement could be signed only after consideration by both parliaments?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think that remains to be seen on the basis of what kind of settlement formula is worked out.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay? All right.
END 4:57 P.M. EDT