Azerbaijan International

Spring 2001 (9.1)
Pages 55-57

Key West Talks
For a Peaceful Resolution to the Karabakh Conflict

Opening Statements by Azerbaijan's President, Heydar Aliyev and Armenia's President, Robert Kocharian
Little White House, Key West, Florida, April 3, 2001

The introductory remarks were made by U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, followed by speeches by Aliyev and Kocharian.

Secretary Powell: It is a great pleasure to open this conference and to welcome our distinguished guests, the President of Azerbaijan and the President of Armenia, and our distinguished co-chairs from the Russian Federation and from France. It is a great pleasure for me, on behalf of President Bush, to welcome all here.

Left: President Heydar Aliyev on his first official State Visit to the White House in Washington, D.C. in August 1997. Behind Aliyev is Rauf Huseinov, advisor to the President.

This is a very important meeting. It is a step in a process toward reconciliation and peace in the region. We are pleased to have the opportunity to host this meeting in this very historic place known as the Little White House. It was used first by President Truman, but many other American presidents have used this place. It is a quiet place, it is a simple place, it is a humble place, but it is a place where great things have happened over the course of America's history for the last 50 or 60 years. It is a place where many world leaders have assembled, and we are pleased to have these world leaders with us here today as we seek a solution to this crisis, which has bedeviled the region for too long.

So a great pleasure to welcome the two presidents and my co-chair colleagues and our distinguished ambassador [Carey Cavanaugh] who has done such a terrific job in helping in this effort. I would now like to begin the conference by asking President Aliyev for his comments.

President Heydar Aliyev
Dear U.S. Secretary of State Powell, Dear OSCE Secretary General Kubish, Dear Minsk Conference Co-chairs, Dear Participants, Dear Media Representatives, Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, let me 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 U.S. Administration, to the Key West authorities and to all the organizers of this meeting for their hospitality and excellent working conditions.

The uniqueness of this meeting is characterized by the fact that for the first time in the history of the OSCE Minsk Group [the Organization of Security and Cooperation of Europe] we are discussing the issues in a different format. Together the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs [U.S., France and Russia] along with the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan and other participants plan to discuss the peaceful resolution of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Regretfully, such a format has never been used in our meetings in the past. Maybe that's one of the reasons why we have failed to reach any success up until now. I hope that the current meeting will play a positive role in the resolution of this 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 the international community. It would not be an exaggeration to say that this is one of the world's conflicts that has been going on for a very long time.

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

Above: Arrival of President Aliyev to the United States on his official visit to Washington, D.C., in 1997.

It is well known that this conflict originated from Armenia's territorial claims against Azerbaijan when it tried to seize and annex Nagorno-Karabakh, an indigenous part of Azerbaijan. This took place in 1988, when Armenia and Azerbaijan still were sister republics within the Soviet Union. However, as a result of the unjust position of the Soviet leadership toward Azerbaijan, and possibly because of their unwillingness to prevent the conflict, it grew and escalated into 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. Of these, 75 percent were Armenians and 25 percent were Azerbaijanis.

Armenia, striving to realize its territorial claims against the neighboring country of Azerbaijan, provoked separatist and terrorist forces in Nagorno-Karabakh into an armed confrontation. Later Armenia itself got involved with military aggression against Azerbaijan.

Nagorno-Karabakh is under the military control of separatists and of Armenian armed forces, which have carried out ethnic cleansing by forcibly expelling the entire Azerbaijani population of 50,000. This process was characterized by murders and violence. And even genocide was carried out against the Azerbaijani population in the town of Khojali [in 1992].

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

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

During the conflict 30,000 Azerbaijani citizens perished, more than 200,000 were wounded and maimed, and thousands were taken prisoner or became hostages and are still missing. About a million Azerbaijanis - one out of every eight citizens of the country - have been forced off their land and have been living in tents under unbearable hardships already for nine years. A new generation has spent their entire lives in tents.

It is hard to find any other parallel situation in the world, when one state has occupied another state's territory, carried out ethnic cleansing on a massive scale, while the world community silently looks on as observers. Azerbaijan's justified demands to curb the aggressor have not been given support.

Nine years ago, on March 24, 1992, during its summit in Helsinki, the Council of Ministers of the OSCE decided to create a Minsk Group that would be responsible for reaching a comprehensive settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Thus, an international body was established to deal with resolving this conflict. This decision, which defined the mandate of the Minsk Conference and a framework for a negotiations process, was extremely important.

Several times in 1993 the UN Security Council debated the issue of the Armenian armed occupation of Azerbaijani territories. Four resolutions were adopted: No. 822 (April 30), No. 853 (July 29), No. 874 (October 14), and No. 884 (November 11).

In these resolutions the UN Security Council resolutely demanded the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, as well as for creating conditions for the return of refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) 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 the mediating role of the OSCE Minsk Group.

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

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

At the OSCE Summit in Lisbon in December 1996, a basic formula for the 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 (1) ensured the territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan, (2) granting the highest degree of self-rule within Azerbaijan to the Nagorno-Karabakh, with (3) security guarantees for the whole population.

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

Since the OSCE Summit in Lisbon, Russia, the U.S., and France - the three largest nations in the world - have become the Minsk Group co-chairs. We placed high expectations on them, counted on their efforts to achieve a resolution of the conflict, restore territorial integrity of Azer-baijan, and return our refugees to their homes. But, unfortunately, up until now it hasn't happened. Armenia has not carried out the decisions made by the United Nations and the OSCE.

The Minsk Group co-chairs have put forward three proposals on the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The first proposal, submitted June 1997, consisted of a "Package Solution" to the conflict. The second, October 1997, was based on a "Step-by-Step Solution". In November 1998, the co-chairs introduced a new, third proposal, based on what they called "Common State".

Azerbaijan accepted the first two proposals, despite the fact that some of their articles contradicted the norms and principles of international law, and encroached upon the principle of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. But even under these circumstances, Armenia refused to accept those proposals and held to a clearly unconstructive position.

We did not accept the proposal of the co-chairs regarding "Common State". The term "common state", which has no basis in international law, implies that 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 the norms and principles of international law, deprives Azerbaijan of a part of its own territory and actually legitimizes Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan.

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

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

Since April 1999, upon the initiative of the U.S. Administration, face-to-face meetings between the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan were initiated, the first one taking place in Washington, D.C. Since then we have had numerous meetings with President Kocharian in Geneva, Moscow, Istanbul, Paris, Minsk [Belarus], Davos [Switzerland], Yalta [Ukraine], and also on the border between our countries.
During our dialogue with the President of Armenia, we were mainly engaged in a search for mutually acceptable compromises for the peaceful resolution of the conflict and for establishing a lasting peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan. I would like to emphasize that by the end of 1999, we were close to achieving a compromise. But soon afterward, Armenia renounced the agreement it had reached.

During these difficult negotiations, the Armenian side has always taken a tough and unconstructive position. We cannot 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. By every means, Armenia has strived to seize part of the territory of Azerbaijan, annex it, or gain the status of independence for Nagorno-Karabakh.

Regretfully, the meetings between the two Presidents have led the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs to hold a "wait and see" position, reducing their activities to the principle of "whatever the Presidents agree upon, will be acceptable to the OSCE".

We, on the other hand, consider that the meetings of the Presidents are not a substitute for the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs' activities. On the contrary, they complement one another and should ensure that the negotiation process progresses into a final resolution of the conflict.

In compliance with the norms and principles of international law and the UN Charter, the territorial integrity, inviolability of frontiers of every independent state, as members of the United Nations, should be respected by all, especially by the OSCE, which has undertaken the responsibility for the resolution of this conflict. The 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 the norms and principles of international law and rigorously enforcing them, the indecisiveness on the part of international community is what we witness. Fundamental norms and principles of international law such as territorial integrity and inviolability of borders are being questioned, thus damaging the basis for decades - old international practice and international law - in order to satisfy 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 committed to peace and upholding the cease-fire that was established in May 1994. We will continue to make further efforts aimed at achieving a comprehensive and peaceful resolution of the conflict.

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

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

We have come to this meeting with great expectations and we count on the active efforts by Russia, the U.S. 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.

Then the U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell opened the remarks, introduced Armenian President Robert Kocharian.

President Kocharian

Distinguished Secretary of State, distinguished co-chairs, distinguished ladies and gentlemen. Let me at the very outset express my gratitude to the co-chairs of the Minsk Group, who have made it possible for us as intermediaries and mediators involved in this process to gather and once again discuss the means and ways to resolve this protracted conflict. And, certainly, I am very thankful to the U.S., which is kind enough to host and provide this site for this round of talks here.

I am sure most of you in this room, except perhaps some correspondents here, are well aware of both the history of this conflict and its current status. You know it in depth and detail; there is no need for me once again to go back over it or to come up with any analysis at this time.

I have not come so many miles to Florida to carry out a propaganda campaign here or to be a tutor to co-chairs. No, I have come here to work constructively to seek settlement.

And that is the end of my statement. Thank you very much.

Azerbaijan International (9.1) Spring 2001.
© Azerbaijan International 2001. All rights reserved.

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