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Armenian and Azerbaijan Leaders Meet in Key-West

Armenian and Azerbaijan Leaders Meet in Key-West

Press Conference of US Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Truman Little White House, Key West, Florida, at Nagorno-Karabakh (Cites U.S. support for process, lauds commitment of leaders). Source: Washington File (EUR 206), U.S. Department of State, Washington D.C., April 3, 2001.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said April 3 that the talks taking place in Key West, Florida, between the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan represent "one more important step in an ongoing process" to resolve their dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh and to find peace for the region.

"A settlement will allow these countries to avoid a threat of renewed war. It will make them able to address the humanitarian plight of hundreds of thousands of displaced persons and will allow them to pursue their long-term goals of security and economic development," he said at a press conference.

Powell spoke with reporters after meeting separately with Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Azerbaijan President Heydar Aliyev, prior to the start of the first plenary session. The talks are sponsored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and are co-chaired by France, Russia, and the United States.

The Secretary said his presence in Key West demonstrates U.S. interest in the region, and that the United States is committed to facilitating a mutually acceptable settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He would not say if any new proposals would be put forward or if President Bush would meet with Kocharian and Aliyev at the end of the week.

The Secretary of State also answered several questions about the situation surrounding the U.S. Navy surveillance plane that made an emergency landing on the Chinese island of Hainan March 31 after colliding with a Chinese fighter jet.

Following is a transcript of his remarks: (begin transcript)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE, Office of the Spokesman, Key West, Florida, April 3, 2001.

Press Conference: Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Truman Little White House, Key West, Florida.

SECRETARY POWELL: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I am very pleased to be here at Key West and at the historic Little White House, and especially when we have an opportunity to create new history in the meetings that we are going to be having over the next few days here.

The United States is committed to facilitating a mutually acceptable settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and these Key West talks highlight United States engagement in the international effort to bring peace to that region. This is one more important step in an ongoing process to find peace for that region.

I have just met separately with Armenian President Kocharian and Azerbaijani President Aliyev, and I am confident their presence here presents an opportunity to help the two governments find a solution through mutual compromise.

The Key West talks build on the direct dialogue between President Kocharian and President Aliyev. The two presidents have met at least 15 times over the past two years in search of a peaceful solution. Their continued commitment to a peaceful solution is recognized and appreciated by the entire international community.

The two presidents have made progress in developing some common ground, most notably in their recent meetings in Paris with French President Chirac. Still, there were differences then and still are, but the parties agree that more extended direct talks with the co-chairs offered promise. And that is why we are here in Key West today working on moving that process forward.

The Minsk Group co-chairs share a common commitment and vision on achieving peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The United States, Russia and France are working in close cooperation as the co-chairs to advance the process. We all remain prepared to support an agreement acceptable to the two presidents.

A peaceful settlement is key to the future of the South Caucasus and the greater region. Peace and stability in this region, a crossroads between Europe and Asia, is in the interest of the international community and the cause of world peace. A settlement will allow these countries to avoid a threat of renewed war. It will make them able to address the humanitarian plight of hundreds of thousands of displaced persons and will allow them to pursue their long-term goals of security and economic development.

In the past, Azeris and Armenians worked together to develop the wealth of the region. If we are successful in these meetings and in the process that will continue from these meetings, they can do so once again. The United States, working with the other co-chairs and European and multilateral institutions, will do all it can to help reach that goal.

Thank you very much, and I would be delighted to take a few questions before returning to the discussions.

QUESTION: Could you give us an update of your understanding of the situation with the plane in China, and also your assessment of the diplomatic damage that it may have done to Sino-American relations?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. The latest information I have is that our consular and attache officials are now meeting with the crew members all together at one time. They will have a meeting for about 40 minutes. I don't have a report of that meeting, but I am pleased that it is taking place.

I hope that is the beginning of an end to this incident. I hope that this meeting will lead to the rapid release of all of the members of the crew back to the United States so they can be returned to their organizations and returned to their families, and I also hope that it also will lead to the rapid return of our airplane.

So I am encouraged by the fact that the meeting is taking place. It shouldn't have taken this long to happen, but now that it has happened, I hope this starts us on a road to a full and complete resolution of this matter.

If we resolve this rather quickly, then hopefully it will not affect the overall relationship between the United States and the People's Republic of China.

QUESTION: Is there any chance that if the talks are successful that both presidents will come to Washington at the end of the week to meet President Bush?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I think it would be premature to suggest that. The negotiations will be very, very difficult. President Bush is watching this week and these negotiations very, very carefully, and I am sure that if there is success at some point in the future, President Bush would wish to see both presidents. Whether it will happen this week or at some time in the future, I don't know.

But let's just hope for progress. But we can't commit to a meeting at this time because we have to see progress. And a reminder that this is just one step on a long road, not the be-all/end-all meeting to get every aspect of this negotiation completed. Just one more step in a long process.

QUESTION: I'd like to ask how the behavior of the Chinese Government in this incident will affect the deliberations and decision within the Administration on arms sales to Taiwan?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't find the two issues connected, arms sales and this. Obviously, when you examine the arms sales question, it is done in the context of our obligations to Taiwan under the policies we have followed with respect to Taiwan and their defensive needs for many years.

So I would like to keep the two issues separate, but I must say I am a little concerned about the way in which the Chinese Government has handled this matter. We could have resolved it much earlier, I think, and without creating the level of interest that there is and the level of difficulty we have encountered.

I think what we have to do now is ask the Chinese to move as quickly as possible, and we are asking them to move as quickly as possible to release our crew members, release our airplane, and let's get back to other matters and put this behind us.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, is it your hope that a new proposal will be put forward during these talks this week? And can you tell us what kind of message you want to send about US interest in the region by your personal commitment to these negotiations?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think my personal presence as the Secretary of State of the United States and representing the President shows the interest we have in the region, the support we have for both the Azerbaijani and Armenian people and their presidents to bring this conflict to an end, and hopefully allow those two nations to be able to create conditions of peace and stability that will encourage investment, that will allow them through that investment to become more integrated members of the international world economic community.

And so the message I would like to give to the peoples of the two countries is that this is a time for all of us to hope for success in these negotiations so that we can end this conflict, bring peace and stability, and allow these two countries to progress more quickly into the promise of the 21st century international world economy.

QUESTION: Any hope of a new proposal being put forward?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think there are a number of ideas. There are some ideas that the two presidents have discussed with representatives of the co-chairs, with President Chirac and with President Putin. And so there are a lot of ideas out there that we will be pursuing, and I would rather not characterize new proposals, old proposals. There are common understandings and there are points of difference that we will be discussing over the next several days.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, what is your feeling -- how close the sides to this agreement, and how broad was the territorial integrity -- preservation of territorial integrity of Azerbaijan discussed?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I have just arrived. I have only had a meeting with each of the two presidents separately. We haven't begun our plenary session, and I don't think it would be appropriate for me to start characterizing various negotiating positions until we've actually begun our discussions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, there are some reports that the Chinese have boarded the US aircraft and are taking some equipment off the plane. Do you, in fact, know that this is true? Do you consider this a violation of US sovereignty, so to speak? And what would the repercussions be for that?

SECRETARY POWELL: I have heard those reports but I cannot confirm them. We won't be able really to confirm much until we are able to speak to all the members of our crew in a totally open environment. But all I can say is I have heard those reports, I cannot confirm those reports, and I will leave it there because I'd be just hypothesizing on what the consequences might be of such a violation.

We have said that the plane should not be violated. It is protected, in our judgment, from that kind of intrusion. But I can't confirm whether such intrusion has taken place.

Thank you.

(end transcript)


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).