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What was the result of the Key West meeting between the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia in April 2001?

The negotiation over the “land swap” in 1999 between the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia was halted by the shocking incident in the Armenian parliament, which resulted in the death of eight prominent politicians, including the Prime Minister and the Speaker of Parliament, at the hands of a small group of gunmen.[1] It was said that the incident was backed by the Russian Federation, in order to prevent the signing of an agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh without the consent of Russia.[2] However, even though the parties to the conflict were unable to sign any agreement at the OSCE Istanbul Summit in November 1999, they did not give up on the idea of a solution based on a “land swap” between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

In this respect, the OSCE Minsk Group, particularly the US, pushed the convening the negotiation process in Kay West, Florida in April 2001. The importance of the meeting was that unlike previous meetings, Key West was the first time that the Co-Chairs of the Minsk Group discussed the issue with both presidents, in the same place.[3] The negotiation process, which lasted from April 3 to 6, involved presidents Aliyev and Kocharyan, US Secretary of State Colin Powell, the Co-Chairs of the OSCE, namely Keri Cavano, Jan Jack Gaydar and Nikolay Gribkov, and Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov.[4] It was believed that the Key West meeting was designed by the Minsk Group with a view to bringing to a conclusion the meetings held between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan since 1999.

The Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group were very optimistic about the Key West talks in Florida. After the meeting, US Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh called them a “bold and significant step forward”. According to him, “the biggest achievement here was moving from abstract concepts on how peace may be achieved to concrete details”. In turn, French Ambassador Jean-Jacques Gaillarde said that the two sides were “much closer to peace” in Key West than in previous negotiations. Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov described the meetings as “very satisfactory”.[5] The next meeting was planned by the Minsk Group for Geneva, Switzerland, in June, and it was also said that a peace agreement between the parties would be signed by the end of year. However, during the five-day meeting it seemed that the peace proposal was unacceptable to the respective parties.[6] The Armenian president withdrew support for the proposal. According to the Libaridian, Kocharyan “then offered passageway rights to Azerbaijan through or over Meghri in return for full sovereignty over the disputed territory. Aliyev had had enough trouble selling the initial exchange and was not in a position to accept the revised formula”.[7] Therefore, the final peace effort by the parties to the conflict failed to achieve any positive results in Key West in April 2001.

[1] King, Charles, The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus (Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 223.

[2] “Shooting at the Armenian Parliament was Organized by Russian Special Services”, AZG DAILY #79, May 3, 2005. Retrieved from; http://www.freezepage.com/1270569339JOFECUAZJM?url=http://www.azg.am/EN/2005050307. Accessed on October 3, 2020.

[3] Ahmedov, Elchin, Aggression of Armenia Against Azerbaijan (Letterpress, 2012), p. 211.

[4] Abdullayev, Elshad, The Naqorno-Karabakh Problem in the light of International Law (“Tahsil” Publishing House, 2005), p. 90.

[5] Peuch, Jean-Christophe, “Armenia/Azerbaijan: International Mediators Report Progress On Karabakh Dispute”, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, April 10, 2001; http://www.rferl.org/content/article/1096184.html. Accessed on October 3, 2020.

[6] Brill Olcott, Martha, “U.S. Policy in the South Caucasus”, The Quarterly Journal, Vol. 1, No. 3, 2002, p. 66.

[7] Libaridian, Gerard J., “The Elusive ‘Right Formula’ at the ‘Right Time’: A Historical analysis of the Official Peace Process”, Accord: An International Review of Peace Initiative, Issue 17, 2005, p. 37.