Key West Talks
For the Resolution of the Karabakh Conflict

Peace Eludes Armenian and Azerbaijani Leaders

by Steve Gutterman

April 6, 2001, San Jose Mercury News
Source: Associated Press

Key West, Florida - Negotiators held a third day of talks on peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan on Thursday, but there were no signs of an imminent compromise between the bitter neighbors in their 13-year-old conflict over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

American, Russian and French delegates who are shepherding Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev at the talks said both leaders are intent on settling a dispute that has dragged on despite a 1994 cease-fire, hobbling economic development and political stability in their countries.

Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh, the top U.S. negotiator, Wednesday praised "the commitment that they are showing us at every turn to try to find a peaceful resolution to this conflict'' and called the cooperative effort "a concrete result in itself.''

Still, he said, "We're hoping for more, and obviously we're working for more."

The head of the French delegation, Ambassador Jean-Jacques Gaillarde, said Thursday that there was some "step by step'' movement in the right direction but that differences still separated the two sides. Officials would not reveal any details of the discussions.

Secretary of State Colin Powell flew to Key West on Tuesday to open the talks, the latest of more than 15 meetings between the two presidents in the past two years. They were expected to end today or Saturday.

Nagorno-Karabakh is a mostly ethnic Armenian enclave whose move to secede from Azerbaijan in 1988 sparked six years of fighting that officials said killed more than 30,000 people and drove 1 million from their homes.

A 1994 cease-fire left Nagorno-Karabakh and some surrounding territory - about one-fifth of the Azerbaijan's total territory - firmly in the hands of its ethnic Armenians.

About 200 people are still killed every year in violence linked with the dispute and by leftover land mines. Hundreds of thousands of displaced people live in dormitories, mud-brick huts and other temporary housing.

The United States, France and Russia are the leaders of a subgroup of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that has been seeking to end the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh for nine years.

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