During Key West Talks
For the Resolution of the Karabakh Conflict

Armenian President Discusses Peace

Saturday May 12, 12:50 AM ET

by Edith M. Lederer, Associated Press Writer

New York (AP) - Negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan to settle one of Europe's forgotten conflicts must take into account that the enclave in dispute has operated as an independent state since 1988, Armenian President Robert Kocharian said Friday.

In the past two years, Kocharian and Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev have held more than 15 meetings to advance peace, most recently last month in Key West, Fla., with the three co-sponsors of the peace process, the United States, Russia, and France.

The chief U.S. negotiator, Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh, said Friday that both leaders are committed to achieving peace and recognize the need for compromise.

The mountainous enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh is populated mainly by ethnic Armenians but nestled inside predominantly Muslim Azerbaijan. Its declaration of independence in 1988 sparked a six-year war that killed more than 30,000 people and turned about 1 million into refugees. While a 1994 cease-fire has held, the two southern Caucuses nations have failed to resolve the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh's claims to independence.

Kocharian told The Associated Press in an interview that he and Aliev will likely meet again next month in Geneva for another round of negotiations on "the package of a proposed solution," but he would not predict when a deal might be reached or disclose any details.

"We do have the outline of a future proposal clear," Kocharian said, but filling in the details is "very important" and can often delay agreement.

In settling the conflict, he said, "we should take into consideration that Nagorno-Karabakh was able to withstand the Azeri aggression against it, and de facto they are building a free and sovereign state."

"We should also take into consideration that ... the new generation and the young people do not perceive Karabakh as a part of Azerbaijan," Kocharian said in an interview with AP.

"The current situation is irreversible and we cannot ignore that," he said.

Kocharian was in New York for an Armenian investment forum at the Plaza Hotel hosted by the International Monetary Fund (news - web sites), the World Bank (news - web sites) and the International Finance Corp. He said the attendance - about 350 people - "exceeded all our expectations."

He predicted positive results, but said a settlement of the conflict would definitely "stimulate foreign investment."

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