Mirza Khazar: Low Expectations For Key West Peace Talks
Analysis and opinions published in the Azerbaijani press on the peace talks between the Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents, Heidar Aliev
and Robert Kocharian, respectively, suggest low expectations for the talks among observers, analysts, and even the general public in Baku on the outcome of meeting in Key West.
Observers in the Azerbaijani capital point out that the co-chairmen of the Minsk Group of OSCE have failed to present new peace proposals to the sides in Florida. By presenting old and even contradictory proposals from 1997-1998, the OSCE co-chairmen admit that they do not have any fresh ideas on how to solve Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Aliev's remarks at Key West on 3 April accusing the international community of not doing enough to end the conflict can be evaluated differently. It is possible that Aliev is securing himself a safe retreat in the case that the Key West talks fail. Therefore, according to some observers, one should not expect any real breakthrough in the Key West talks.
Who will emerge the "winner" in Florida is another question discussed among Azerbaijani politicians and observers. Most local commentators agree that since the Key West talks will not produce any concrete results in resolving the Karabakh conflict, the talks can help to keep the peace process alive. But on the other hand, Aliev, Kocharian, and maybe even U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell could all come out as symbolic winners. Aliev and Kocharian will show the public how tough they are in protecting and defending their national interests, and, in doing so, will make public relations gains back home in Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Furthermore, Aliev, according to local press comments, can easily continue his efforts to have his son become his successor, but could at the same time run into trouble at home if he fails to resolve the Karabakh conflict as the plight of several hundred thousand refugees is of great concern to the public. The peace negotiations could help the Azerbaijani government distract public attention from widespread corruption and even criticism from abroad, according to local observers. Many others believe that a peace deal would mean a continuation of the poverty and corruption that plagues Azerbaijani society. One winner might be U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who, according to some comments in the international media, will be able to show his skills as a proficient diplomat while gaining extensive and badly needed exposure by the international media. The possible winners are known. But who, if anyone, will be the losers? This question remains open in Baku. (Mirza Khazar)
10 April 2001
What Happened In Key West?
U.S. President George W. Bush's meeting with the Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents on 9 April increased hopes
for a peaceful solution of the Karabakh conflict in the near future. But the real outcome of the peace talks between Armenian President Robert Kocharian, Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev and the three Minsk Group co-chairmen in Key West is still not clear.
Contradictory and deeply different reactions to the latest round of peace talks in Florida from Armenian and Azerbaijani officials have deepened uncertainty and doubts in Azerbaijan surrounding the Key West talks. Optimistic statements by Armenian government officials, and obviously cool reactions from Azerbaijani officials are still feeding this uncertainty. More and more politicians and ordinary citizens are asking how realistic the Armenian optimism is, and if there are indeed grounds for that optimism, then how should the Azerbaijani public understand the neutral and cool statements of officials close to prezident Aliev.
There are many different explanations expressed in Azerbaijani media following Key West talks. Some politicians claim the Azerbaijani president has made serious concessions to the Armenian side and has therefore chosen to remain silent on the outcome of peace talks. Other politicians express different views. They suggest that the excitement on the Armenian side could be an attempt to discredit the Azerbaijani leadership at home and to put more pressure on Heidar Aliev to agree to a peace accord promptly.
It is hard to support or reject any of these opinions. But the main question remains open - What happened in Key West? Is there any ground for Armenian optimism? Judging from Aliev's short and nervy statement in Washington after his meeting with the U.S. president, these questions are annoying the Azerbaijani leadership too. In his response to a reporter's question - How much of progress was made during the negotiations on Nagorno-Karabakh last week in Key West, Florida, Aliev responded with one sentence: " I haven't had the chance to measure how close we are now." This statement does not solve the problem. The main problem is: who will tell the Azerbaijani public what really happened in Key West? (Mirza Khazar) RFE/RL Azerbaijan Report
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