During Key West Talks
For the Resolution of the Karabakh Conflict

Presidents Soak Up Rays and the Key West Lifestyle

by Linda Gottwald

Daily Citizen

April 6, 2001

Security, Key West-style, means following your president on jet skis, lounging by the pool, fishing for cobia and shopping on Duval Street, Armenian and Azeri spokesmen said Thursday, the third day of peace talks between the two countries.

"President [Heidar] Aliyev said for peace for his country he would go to the North Pole - but he's glad to be in Key West," said Elin Suleymanov, Press Attache for the Azerbaijan Embassy in Washington. "He's enjoying himself immensely and wants to see much more."

Although this visit is the seventh trip to the states for Aliyev, 77, it is his first time in Florida, Suleymanov said. A widower, Aliyev joined the Communist party in 1945, and held a succession of posts in the Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs over the years before being elected president of Azerbaijani in 1993 and again in '98.

But this week the president was able to turn briefly from affairs of the state to affairs of the sun. "He has been enjoying the sunset from the deck of his hotel and drinking tropical non-alcoholic drinks," Suleymanov said. "And the other day, he did a bit of shopping with is bodyguards and Secret Service men along Duval Street for clothes. He is very grateful to the citizens of Key West for their hospitality and friendliness."

Suleymanov said he's taken a bit of time himself to enjoy the city. "I rented a scooter and had a wonderful time," he said. "And today I lunched on mahi-mahi for the first time, and I must say it was one of the most delicious lunches I have ever had. "I also passed a karaoke bar where people were coming in from the streets and singing - very refreshing."

Vahe Gabrielyan, press secretary for President Robert Kocharian of Armenia, said one of the jobs of security guards this week has been keeping up with the president on jet skis. "So far, he has gone twice," Gabrielyan said. "Of course, he was followed by bodyguards and secret servicemen on jet skis. The president is a very athletic man."

Married with three children, Kocharian, 46, who has an engineering degree, held several positions in Communist organizations before becoming Armenia's president in 1997. Although his favorite sports are basketball and swimming, he has indulged in a bit of fishing this week.

"He caught three big fish, cobia, tuna and kingfish, one of which was 40 pounds," Gabrielyan said. "Fortunately, he likes seafood. He also went swimming at the pool and you could probably find a few of us lying in the sun this week."

Thursday evening, the presidents were scheduled to take a sunset cruise on the Schooner America - together. "One thing is clear," Gabrielyan said. "This has been a good setting for diplomacy."

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