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Azerbaijan Report: April 5, 2001

5 April 2001
Key West, Florida; 4 April (RFE/RL) -- The ethnic-Armenian leader of the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave in Azerbaijan, Arkadi Ghukasian, said that he hoped the talks in Key West would lead to a settlement allowing the enclave to be unified with Armenia or to be recognized as independent.

He said that all other options mean "that we move not toward peace but toward war." Ghukasian said in an interview with "The Los Angeles Times" the previous day that although Karabakh has confidence in Armenian President Robert Kocharian, it might reject an agreement between Kocharian and Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev "if it is deemed unacceptable to Nagorno-Karabakh."

Delegates at the talks in Key West -- a Florida resort -- are continuing with informal meetings in an effort to resolve the dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the enclave.

According to the press service of the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense, on 3 April Armenian armed forces violated the ceasefire agreement and fired on positions of the Azerbaijani armed forces in the Gedebey and Geranboy districts. Independent confirmation of this report was not possible.

Observers do not expect any serious results from the negotiations in Key West. At the same time they note the great impotence of U.S. activity in attempts to settle the Karabakh problem.

Azerbaijan's former state adviser on foreign policy, Vafa Guluzadeh, in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, said that the U.S. is sincerely interested in bringing peace to the Caucasus region. According to him the main factor preventing a solution to the conflict is the hegemonistic policy of Russia in the region. Today, Armenia needs peace as well but it cannot make attempts in this direction because of its dependence on Russia. Guluzadeh recalled the activity of Azerbaijan and Armenia in trying to settle the Karabakh dispute in 1999 and noted that according to President Heidar Aliyev they were ready to reach agreement but that the terrorist act in the Armenian parliament ended this process. Following this tragic event, Kocharian took a tougher position on the Karabakh issue. Guluzadeh criticized military exercises by Armenian armed forces on the border with Nakhichevan at the same time as the peace negotiations in Florida. Commenting on the statement by the U.S. State Department about the occupation of Azerbaijani territory by Armenia, he pointed out that it was a blow for Armenia and a political success for Azerbaijan. Guluzadeh said that this success must be parlayed into an agreement in which Armenia leaves Azerbaijani territory.

Political analyst Rasim Musabekov thinks it is unrealistic for the two sides to reach a monumental agreement in three days. At the same time, the U.S. administration's high-level activity on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue will play a large role in the next round of negotiations. Commenting on the military exercises by Armenian armed forces on their border with Azerbaijan's Nakhichevan, Musabekov said that this is Yerevan's way of demonstrating its readiness for war.

The parties that make up the Azerbaijani Forces Union said that they do not expect any positive results from the negotiations in Florida. Tahir Kerimli, head of Vahdat Party, in criticizing the statement by U.S. State Department on the history of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, noted that only at first glance does it seem to defend the interests of Azerbaijan. The details included within the document show that the U.S. State Department means that Armenia occupied only the territories of Azerbaijan outside Upper Karabakh.


The opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" writes that Russia is interested in seeing that no agreements are reached during the talks in Key West. During a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Heidar Aliyev reportedly said that the main compromise from the Azerbaijani side will be to allow the highest degree of self-government to Upper Karabakh's separatist regime. But the Armenian side has not said anything about what it is willing to offer as a compromise. The paper noted Aliev's sharp statements about the UN Security Council and the OSCE. At the same time the newspaper notes that it is naive to expect a positive result to Azerbaijan's benefit on settling the conflict because there must be strong military, economic, and diplomatic factors behind such a statement.

The opposition newspaper "Hurriyyat" said that the reported violation of the ceasefire by Armenian forces near Gedebey will affect the current peace negotiations.

The opposition newspaper "Azadliq" appraises the 16th meeting between Aliyev and Kocharian as very tense because following the Paris negotiations "official Baku" toughened its position and Aliyev repeatedly stated that his country is prepared to solve the conflict militarily.

The former foreign minister of Azerbaijan, Tofiq Zulfugarov, said in an interview with the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" that Aliyev is ready to negotiate. He noted the great importance of the fact that Aliyev has given complete information about the Karabakh conflict to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. According to Zulfugarov, the entrenched position of Kocharian shows that Armenians are not ready for constructive talks. He does not believe any agreement will be signed in Key West. According to the former foreign minister there may only be statement made by both presidents.

"Yeni Azerbaijan," a daily controlled by the ruling party, writes that the Florida negotiations show that the influence sharing between Russia and Washington has reached a critical point. After these negotiations either the U.S. should recognize the weakness of its position in the Caucasus or Russia should withdraw from some of its interests in the region. According to the paper there is little hope that any deals will be agreed to during the talks.


Key West, Florida (AP) -- The toughest obstacle to peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan is persuading people whose lives have been torn apart by war to accept the painful compromises needed to end 13 years of conflict, the top U.S. negotiator at talks between the bitter neighbors said.

Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh spoke on 4 March, the second day of talks with the presidents of the two countries on a settlement of their conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mostly ethnic-Armenian enclave whose move to secede from Azerbaijan in 1988 sparked six years of fighting. Officials say the fighting has killed more than 30,000 people.

"For many thousands of people if not hundreds of thousands, they've had a family member die in the fighting. For more than a million people, they've been dislocated by the fighting," Cavanaugh said.

Most people in both countries understand that the conflict has hurt their chances for economic recovery and political stability, he said, but it will still be hard to sell them on a compromise.

"The biggest challenge that faces the presidents, if they're able to achieve peace at a negotiating table, is to convince the people that this price is the right price for the future that comes with peace," he said.

A 1994 ceasefire left Nagorno-Karabakh and some surrounding territory firmly in the hands of its ethnic Armenians, who have declared its independence. It is not recognized abroad.

Hundreds of thousands of former residents still live in tent camps, mud huts, and other temporary housing elsewhere in Azerbaijan, and about 200 people are killed every year in violence linked to the dispute and by leftover land mines.

The United States, France, and Russia are the leaders of a subgroup of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that has been seeking to end the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh for nine years.

Negotiating teams from the three countries are shepherding Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev at peace talks here this week. Secretary of State Colin Powell opened the four-day talks on 3 April, and the three teams met with the two presidents separately the following day.

Negotiators would not reveal details about the closed-door talks.

Powell said on the opening day that both countries will have to give ground, calling for "mutual compromise."

At a time when relations between Russia and the United States have been strained, Cavanaugh and the top Russian negotiator stressed that they are cooperating closely along with the French.

"All three countries are focused on a common goal of peace and stability in this region," said Cavanaugh.

Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov said, "I came here not to defend the national interests of Russia as my motherland. I am working together with my two colleagues in the name of peace in the Caucasus region."

Compiled by Mirza Xazar in Prague and Samira Gaziyeva in Baku.