Key West Talks May Last Up to 5 Days

YEREVAN (combined sources)–The international community has shown immense enthusiasm toward the Key West talks to be held on April 3 between the Armenian and Azerbaijani Presidents.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell has invited Presidents Heydar Aliyev and Robert Kocharian to Florida for peace talks toward a resolution of the dispute over Nagorno Karabakh.

These talks are being sponsored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and will be mediated by expert negotiating teams from the United States–Russia–and France – the three Co-Chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group. Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh–Special Negotiator for Nagorno Karabakh–will lead the US team.

Cavanaugh said Secretary of State Colin Powell will participate in the talks and an entourage of about 100 diplomats and negotiators will accompany the presidents. He said Key West was selected because of its neutral position and the fact that there is not a significant Armenian or Azerbaijan population in the area.

"We may have a few protesters come down–but I think it will be a very low-key setting," Cavanaugh said–adding neither Kocharyan or Aliyev have been to Florida before but appeared pleased by descriptions of Key West.

"In a sense–this is a fishing trip–but we’ll be fishing for peace rather than tarpon," ambassador Carey Cavanaugh said Thursday. "These are going to be very intense discussions and we were looking for a humble setting in a pleasant community. "Being from Florida–I thought the Little White House in Key West would be perfect."

City Manager Julio Avael said he had been contacted by the State Department two weeks ago–but the meeting was not confirmed until Wednesday. "It’s wonderful to think Key West may be part of the history in bringing peace to this conflict," he said.

While Cavanaugh said there would be little time for sight-seeing–he did not rule out the possibility of the two presidents watching the sunset festival in Mallory Square. "It would be remiss if we did not show it to them–seeing as they’re going to be in walking distance," he said. "I think they might really enjoy it."

Cavanaugh–who has been working on resolving the conflict between the countries for two years–said while it was possible this would be the final summit–he would hesitate to speculate on its outcome. "Of course–it would be wonderful," he said. "Butt peace is a really difficult thing to achieve."

Presidents Aliyev and Kocharian started a direct dialogue in 1999 and have met over a dozen times since in an effort to bring peace and stability to the South Caucasus. Their most recent encounters were January 26-27 and March 4-5 in Paris where they met alone and with French President Jacques Chirac. These talks in Key West are a continuation of their direct dialogue and President Chirac’s recent work.

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