Key West Talks
For the Resolution of the Karabakh Conflict

Statement: Azerbaijan President Heydar Aliyev in Key West, Florida

Date Released:
April 3, 2001
Source: U.S. State Department

Unofficial translation

Dear US Secretary of State Powell,
Dear OSCE Secretary General Kubish,
Dear Minsk Conference Co-chairs,
Dear Participants,
Dear Media Representatives,
Ladies & Gentlemen,

First of all, allow me to express my appreciation to you, Mr. Secretary of State, for your invitation to visit the United States of America. I express my gratitude to the US Administration, the Key-West authorities and all the organizers of the meeting for hospitality and excellent working conditions.

Special character of this meeting is defined by the fact that for the first time the OSCE Minsk Group has gathered in such a format, when OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs along with the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan and other participants plan to discuss peaceful resolution of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Regretfully, such a meeting format has never been used in the past. Maybe, it is one of the reasons, why we have failed to reach a success until now. I hope that the current meeting will play a positive role in the resolution of the conflict, which has been going on for more than 12 years.

The history of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh military conflict is quite well known to international community. It would not be an exaggeration to say that this is one of the conflicts in the world, which is not being resolved for a long time.

Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to briefly speak about and share my thoughts with you on main obstacles to settlement of the conflict.

It is known that this conflict stemmed from the territorial claims towards Azerbaijan by Armenia, which tried to seize and annex Nagorno-Karabakh, an indigenous part of Azerbaijan. It happened in 1988, when Armenia and Azerbaijan still were sister republics within the Soviet Union. However, as a result of unjust position of the Soviet leadership towards Azerbaijan, and possibly because of their unwillingness to prevent the conflict, it has grown and escalated into a war.

I would like to emphasize that back in 1921 the Government of Azerbaijan granted the status of autonomous region to the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, and the region enjoyed all the rights of autonomy. Thus, there were no objective reasons whatsoever for the eruption of this conflict. At the moment when the conflict started 185,000 people were living in Nagorno-Karabakh. 74 percent of them were Armenians and 25.2 percent Azerbaijanis.

Armenia, striving to realize its territorial claims against neighboring country of Azerbaijan, has provoked separatist and terrorist forces in Nagorno-Karabakh to an armed confrontation. Later Armenia itself started a military aggression against Azerbaijan.

Nagorno-Karabakh has fallen fully under military control of separatists and the Armenian armed forces, which carried out an ethnic cleansing by forcibly expelling the whole Azerbaijani population of 50,000. This process was marked by murders and violence. And the genocide was carried out against the Azerbaijani population in the town of Khojaly.

After occupying Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenian armed forces escalated their military operations beyond borders of the Nagorno-Karabakh region and additionally occupied, outside of it, seven large administrative regions of Azerbaijan.

Thus, 20 percent of the territory of Azerbaijan had been occupied by the year 1993, and at present continue to remain under the occupation of the Armenian armed forces. Everything on that territory is destroyed, looted, razed to earth. More than 900 large and small settlements, about 600 schools, 250 healthcare institutions, all museums, historical and cultural monuments have been destroyed.

During the conflict 30,000 Azerbaijani citizens perished, over 200,000 were wounded and maimed, thousands were taken prisoners, became hostages and are missing. About a million Azerbaijanis, one out of every eight citizens of the country, have been forced out from their land and have been living in tents under unbearable hardships for already nine years. A new generation has grown up in tents.

It is hard to find any other parallel situation in the world, when one state has occupied other state,s territories, carried ethnic cleansing there in a massive scale, and the world community silently observes this tragedy. Azerbaijan,s justified demands to curb the aggressor are not given support.

Nine years ago, on March 24, 1992, the Council of Ministers of the CSCE at its special meeting in Helsinki decided to hold the Minsk Conference aimed at reaching a comprehensive settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Thus, an international body was established to deal with the resolution of the conflict. This decision, which defined the mandate of the Minsk Conference and framework for negotiations process, was extremely important.

In 1993 the UN Security Council has several times debated the issue of the Armenian armed occupation of Azerbaijani territories. Four resolutions have been adopted - No. 822 on April 30, No. 853 dated July 29, No. 874 on October 14, and No. 884 on November 11.

In these resolutions the UN Security Council resolutely demanded immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, as well as creating conditions for the return of refugees and internally displaced people to their homes and native lands. The United Nations absolutely supported sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan, and reaffirmed the Nagorno-Karabakh region as a part of Azerbaijan. The Security Council also supported mediating role of the CSCE Minsk Group.

However, all these resolutions have not been implemented and the UN Security Council has not bothered itself to follow up on enforcing its own decisions.

In December of 1994, during the CSCE Budapest Summit, a decision was made to intensify the activities of the CSCE on Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The CSCE heads of states defined the step-by-step nature of settlement and instructed the CSCE Minsk Conference co-chairs to work out an agreement on cessation of the armed conflict. The agreement was to envisage elimination of main consequences of the conflict for all sides and to become the basis for convening the Minsk Conference. A decision was also made to deploy multi-national peacekeeping forces of the CSCE to the conflict zone.

At the OSCE Lisbon Summit, in December 1996, a basic formula for settlement of the conflict was defined. All the OSCE member-states, with the exception of the Republic of Armenia, supported three main principles of the settlement, which ensure the territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan, granting the highest degree of self-rule within Azerbaijan to the Nagorno-Karabakh, with security guarantees for its whole population.

Thus, the international community has defined legal basis for settlement, establishing framework for negotiations and identified tasks of mediators.

Since the OSCE Lisbon Summit Russia, US, and France, the three largest nations in the world, are the Minsk Group co-chairs. We placed high expectations on them, counted on their efforts to achieve resolution of the conflict, restore territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, and return refugees to their homes. But, unfortunately, until now it didn,t happen. Armenia does not carry out all decisions made by the United Nations and the OSCE.

The Minsk Group co-chairs have put forward three proposals on settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The first proposal, submitted in June of 1997, consisted of the package solution of the conflict, the second, as of October 1997, was based on step-by-step solution. In November of 1998 the co-chairs made a new, the third proposal, on "common state.

Azerbaijan accepted the first and the second proposals of the co-chairs as basis for negotiations, despite the fact that some of their articles contradicted norms and principles of the international law, encroached on the principle of territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. But even under these circumstances Armenia refused to accept those proposals and held clearly unconstructive position.

We did not accept the proposal of co-chairs on "common state. The term "common state, which has no international law basis, implies that the Nagorno-Karabakh is an independent state and territorial entity, and grants it, equally with Azerbaijan, the status of the subject of the "common state. This proposal fully contradicts norms and principles of the international law, deprives Azerbaijan from a part of its territory and actually legitimizes Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan.

We consider that co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, guided by the principles of international law, had to exert more effective influence over the negotiation process, promote settlement of the conflict, restoration of Azerbaijan,s territorial integrity and return of refugees to their homes as soon as possible. The Nagorno-Karabakh, an inalienable part of Azerbaijan, can be granted high degree of self-rule within Azerbaijan.

Unfortunately, the co-chairs have been mainly busy with mediating, without exerting necessary influence over the process of negotiations in compliance with the norms of international law. Our hopes for co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, represented by Russia, US and France, have not brought the expected results yet.

Since April of 1999, at the initiative of the US Administration face to face meetings between the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan started, first one taking place in Washington. Since then we have had numerous meetings with President Kocharian in Geneva, Moscow, Istanbul, Paris, Minsk, Davos, Yalta, and also at the border between our countries.

During our dialogue with the President of Armenia we were mainly engaged in search for mutually acceptable compromises for peaceful resolution of the conflict and establishing a lasting peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan. I would like to emphasize that by the end of 1999 we were close to achieving compromise. But soon afterwards Armenia has renounced on the agreement reached.

During the difficult negotiations the Armenian side has always taken a tough and unconstructive position. We can not come to an agreement because the position of the Armenian side at these talks is based on the presumption that, having occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijani territory, it has an advantage. Armenia by all means strives to seize part of the territory of Azerbaijan, annex it, or gain the status of independence for the Nagorno-Karabakh.

Regretfully, the meetings between two Presidents have led the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs to hold waiting and passive position, reducing their activities to the principle "Whatever the Presidents agree upon, will be acceptable for the OSCE.

We, on the other side, consider that the meetings of the Presidents do not substitute for the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, activities. Vice versa, they are mutually complementing and should ensure that negotiation process progresses into final resolution of the conflict.

In compliance with norms and principles of the international law and the UN Charter, the territorial integrity, inviolability of frontiers of every independent state, member of the United Nations, should be respected by all, especially by the OSCE, which has undertaken responsibility for resolution of this conflict. OSCE and its Minsk Group must strongly adhere to this principle and by all means promote its strict observance.

However, the current situation in the peace process creates a dangerous precedent in international relations.

Instead of respecting norms and principles of international law and strengthening them rigorously, indecisiveness on the part of international community is witnessed. Fundamental norms and principles of the international law such as territorial integrity, inviolability of borders are being questioned, thus damaging the basis for the decades old international practice and international law, just to please 100,000 Armenians who live in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. Obviously, peace, stability, and security achieved as a result of acceptance of military aggression, can be neither strong, nor lasting.

Having described the history of the current situation in the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, I declare that Azerbaijan remains to be committed to peace and upholding the cease-fire, which was established in May of 1994. We will continue to make further efforts aimed at achieving comprehensive and peaceful resolution of the conflict.

At the same time, I think all what I have just told you gives you an opportunity to realize the difficult situation we have found ourselves in. Therefore, I appeal to Russia, US and France, co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, to intensify their activities in order to put an end to this military conflict and establish lasting peace.

There is no need to prove that Azerbaijan, with 20 percent of its territory under occupation, hundreds of thousands of citizens living in tents, is most interested in ending the conflict and achieving peace. It is absolutely clear that peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan will have enormous impact on stability and security in the whole South Caucasus.

We have arrived at this meeting with great expectations and we count on active efforts by Russia, US and France, the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, and also on the constructive position of the Republic of Armenia.

Thank you for your attention.

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