During Key West Talks
For the Resolution of the Karabakh Conflict

Transcript: OSCE Group Briefs on Nagorno-Karabakh, May 20, Spitak

U.S. Department of State, May 22, 2001

International mediators in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process continued their visit to the region and held a briefing for reporters in Spitak, in northern Armenia, on May 20.

Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh of the United States, Ambassador Philippe de Suramaen of France, and Ambassador Nikolai Mikhailovich Gribkov of Russia represent the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

The three co-chairs discussed some of the difficulties in reaching a solution in Nagorno-Karabakh but also expressed optimism about the general desire for peace. None, however, would predict when a peace agreement would be signed. Cavanaugh said they would be "delighted" if it could be this year, but that they did not know if it would be possible.

Gribkov discussed prospects for the next round of negotiations, scheduled for mid-June in Geneva.

"... I want the Geneva meeting to take place even tomorrow, in June, July, August, September, as soon as possible, " he said. "But we have to be realistic. We can't hold meetings only for the sake of holding them. This meeting should be very well prepared. We should do everything that the meeting becomes a step forward. If we are confident that the meeting will be such a step, we will suggest some convenient dates for it."

The co-chairs also answered questions about investments to rehabilitate the region and Iranian involvement in the peace process.

Following is a transcript of the briefing:
(begin transcript)

U.S. Embassy
Yerevan, Armenia


Sunday, May 20, 2001

Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh, United States Ambassador Philippe de Suramaen, France
Ambassador Nikolai Gribkov, Russia

CAVANAUGH: In the last few days in the region we had a very eventful day, today in Karabakh, in Shoushi. We saw a lot of refugees who had left Baku and Sumgayit, talked to them about the problems they face. We had a good discussion in Azerbaijan two days ago with President Aliyev. We also went through a refugee camp there. We have heard on this entire trip - and it is very helpful for us and promising for us - words of desire for peace from virtually everyone we have met. In Azerbaijan and Karabakh there is just a common theme on the need for the resolution of the conflict. It makes us work even harder.

We have been looking at a lot of things that need to be done that peace can be achieved, how to resettle people, how to reconstruct the economy and rebuild the economy, so that people can have the lives they deserve in this region. And that is part of the reason why we have come today. Here is a part of Armenia that had suffered even before the conflict. Here is a part of Armenia where people know how hard it is when your life is destroyed by disasters that have come and how hard it is to put the pieces back together. We want to look at the situation here. We are going to go to Gyumri as well and look at things that need to be done there. We know there are people here in Spitak and in Gyumri who were also refugees from the conflict. And they have not yet been fully re-integrated into society. We want to look at their needs, too, and we intend to look at the economic potential and how you could improve the economy in this region. Because we know again that this region has gone through such difficulties in the past and it deserves and needs a better future.

What do you think - is this your last visit to the region before the Geneva talks?

CAVANAUGH: I would never guess when our last visit is. It is an important visit and I think we have seen in the last few days that this visit is helping move the peace process forward. Our hope is for peace as soon as it can be achieved but we know how hard that is to do. We know the burden on the shoulders of the presidents and the burden on people, the people of Armenia and the people of Azerbaijan, to accept a peace. So, we never underestimate how hard that task is and we never predict when they might be successful in finding a peaceful agreement that people could embrace.

When, in your opinion, a peaceful agreement can be signed? Is it possible to have it signed this year?

CAVANAUGH: We would be delighted if it could be this year. We don't know. We are doing everything we can to make it possible. And I believe today President Kocharian and President Aliyev are also working very hard to try to find a solution. But it is not easy and I think my colleagues would say the same. We found that it is a hard task. One thing, and let me highlight it here because I think it is important, that has helped the peace effort is a common perspective from Moscow, from Paris, from Washington of how important it is to find peace here and how important it is to work together here. You see today the three co-chairs working on a common goal and we are backed by foreign ministers, national security advisors and presidents who are working on this diligently. This is an issue that has seized their attention. President Bush has been involved in this. He has talked to President Chirac and Putin about this and met President Kocharian and President Aliyev after the peace talks in Key West. President Putin has been engaged very actively in pushing this forward. President Chirac talked in Paris in January and March. You see an enormous amount of attention being paid to this problem at all levels and a lot of cooperation.

GRIBKOV: So, don't let us down, please.

You said that you exclude the possibility of signing a document this year, did you?

GRIBKOV: I didn't say such a thing. I support the words by my friend Carey. It is difficult to predict any dates. I'm a little bit superstitious. When you want something very much, you'd better keep silence. We want the settlement of the conflict to be reached as soon as possible. If possible, even today or tomorrow. But we are realists and we understand that sometimes our possibilities do not match our wants. So we will continue to work actively in order to bring closer the dates of signing a peaceful agreement. But we can't say where and when it will take place. There was a question whether this is the last visit before signing a peaceful agreement. So, does it mean that after everything is normal you won't let us come here and won't invite us? (Laugh)

Is it true that the Iranian ambassador to Armenia is invited to participate in the sessions of the Minsk Group?

GRIBKOV: I have not heard about it, frankly speaking. Iran is not included in the OSCE Minsk Group that we are representing here. Of course, we understand that Iran is an important regional player and a serious factor in regional politics, and without taking into account Iran's interests we can hardly reach a real settlement. That's why a decision was made in Key West, according to which the co-chairs will meet with Iranian representatives to brief them about recent developments. We have met only on bilateral levels. I know that our leadership of the foreign ministry had meetings with the Iranian ambassador in Moscow and to some extent touched upon the Karabakh peace process. Within the "trinity" framework we have not had any meetings yet. I hope that they will be in the near future.

What is the role played by Mr. de Suramaen in the negotiations?

CAVANAUGH AND GRIBKOV: He plays a very important role.

DE SURAMAEN: I understand how important it is for Iran to establish peace here. They are your neighbors and it is clear that they want to get information. And we hope that we will meet with them. I can't say anything else. I would like to add that we are working very actively. We were in Vienna several days ago, then we left for New York and now we are here. It means we are working very actively. We are backed by presidents Putin, Bush and Chirac. I would also like to emphasize that everywhere we felt the desire for peace. It is very important.

Do you have a draft of the proposal with you?


GRIBKOV: We have just concluded a trip in Baku and arrived in Stepanakert on Saturday. The general mood after Baku, with the exception of a few emotional statements, is the desire for peace. They understand that today's situation of no-war/no-peace that lasts for several years will benefit neither Armenians nor Azeris. Besides, there is a constructive attitude of both presidents on the Karabakh problem, it is also very important. There is a coordinated activity of the co-chairs. We are backed not only by our presidents. For example, recently we had a Minsk Group session in Vienna and you know, our activity, activity of the co-chairs was fully supported by all members of the Minsk Group, and it means all the members of the OSCE. It encourages us to work actively in order to help bring an end to this big evil as soon as possible.

Then, why do you doubt that the Geneva talks would take place in the near future?

GRIBKOV: Because the issue is very complicated. If everything were so easy, the conflict would have been solved earlier. Let's be realistic. Please believe me that I want the Geneva meeting to take place even tomorrow, in June, July, August, September, as soon as possible. But we have to be realistic. We can't hold meetings only for the sake of holding them. This meeting should be very well prepared. We should do everything that the meeting becomes a step forward. If we are confident that the meeting will be such a step, we will suggest some convenient dates for it.

CAVANAUGH: Let me answer, it is hard to say exactly when the talks in Switzerland would be and it's hard to say when a settlement would be. We gave you a long list of very positive things that have helped the peace effort - the cooperation between France, Russia and the United States, the strong engagement of President Kocharian and President Aliyev, the desire of the people of Armenia and the people of Azerbaijan for a peaceful settlement. Here is a missing piece and we have seen that on this trip, too, and that is the preparedness of the population of Armenia and Azerbaijan to accept compromises.

The two presidents have been working very hard to find a peace settlement that would be lasting and endurable, and they believe for that to work, it has to have serious compromises. And there are strong calls for peace from all people on all sides, but there have not been calls from people on either side in favor of compromise. You don't ever discuss it today in Armenia that we really need a compromise to find peace, and you don't hear that discussion in Azerbaijan. I think that makes it very difficult for both presidents to move ahead as quickly as they would like and it makes it very difficult, despite the cooperation of our governments and a support of the OSCE and other players, the international community, to say peace can be achieved this day, because it is not simply dependant on two presidents, it is not dependent on three co-chairs, it is very much dependant on the people of Armenia and the people of Azerbaijan.

What about the people of Karabakh?

CAVANAUGH: And the people of Karabakh as well. It has to be a settlement that people accept, that works and is durable, but that includes compromises that they can also take into their hearts and say this is what was needed.

GRIBKOV: In this regard, we have a big request. A lot depends on you, journalists, print or broadcast, which parts you would emphasize and stress in your reports, you can influence public opinion. Please work for the sake of peace.

What will be the approximate volume of financial investments needed for the rehabilitation of the region?

CAVANAUGH: We have been looking at how you can financially help all of Armenia and all of Azerbaijan if the solution can be found. We started this over a year ago already with the international community. We brought international agencies together to look at what could be done, what needed to be done. And we have done several trips to the region, where we've looked at projects that could be undertaken and needs that need to be addressed. On this trip we are looking at several of those. We have done some already in Azerbaijan and in Karabakh, and we are going to do some in this region, too. It is important to plan ahead. Because if peace can be found soon, we need to be ready to help people to implement...

GRIBKOV: It is important to take into account that if there is no peace here and the situation of no-war/no-peace continues like this - a fragile truce - the investments would hardly flow into this region. I think that establishing peace is a very important condition for the economic reconstruction of this region.

Do you think that after this visit, Karabakh will also participate in the negotiations in Geneva?

GRIBKOV: The sides should decide it. The co-chairs can only advise, but the question should be decided by the sides.

What do you think about the possibility of signing a peace agreement in Moscow?

GRIBKOV: Here is my answer: there is Baku and Yerevan, there is Moscow, Paris and Washington. Everything will be done the way they decide. Let's not predict what will be tomorrow. There are more important issues that should be addressed today.

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.

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