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USIS Washington File

29 January 2000

Albright Meets Presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan in Quest for Peace

(OSCE Minsk Group to meet February 2)
Davos - Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright held separate meetings here 
January 29 with the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan to help advance the 
search for peace in Nagorno-Karabakh.
A senior state department official said the United States believes progress is 
being made in the peace process. The OSCE Minsk Group, co-chaired by the United 
States, Russia and France, has been supporting the process and the two top 
leaders began a direct dialogue one year ago at the urging of Secretary of State 
Albright.
"It is clear that there is movement forward... and that they are farther ahead 
on this issue than they have been before," the official said said.
The Secretary of State met for about one hour each with President Robert 
Kocharian of Armenia then with President Heydar Aliyez of Azerbaijan, according 
to the official. "The intent was to continue our engagement with them on efforts 
to resolve the problem in Nagorno-Karabakh."
The meetings took part on the margins of the 30th Annual Meeting of the World 
Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, where between 2000 and 3000 
business and political leaders gather each year to discuss and debate major 
international issues.
The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh began in 1988 when the territory, a 
predominantly ethnic Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan, voted to secede and 
join Armenia.  The continuing conflict has seriously undermined economic and 
social development in the Caucasus region. Over a million people, according to 
some estimates, are still displaced from their homes.
"Resolution of this issue is not easy or simple," the U.S. official said.  "This 
is a problem that is over a decade old.  And the historic animosity between the 
two countries goes back much further than that."
Before meeting with the Secretary of State, the Azeri and Armenian 
presidents met one-on-one as part of a direct dialogue started by Secretary 
Albright at last April's NATO summit, the official said.
The United States believes the direct dialogue between the top leaders is 
yielding the basis for a definitive settlement, the offfical added.  The 
discussions the Secretary of State held with them in Davos were designed to help 
advance that settlement."
The official would not disclose details of the proposed settlement, but said the 
OSCE Minsk Group has proposed several variants.
In their direct dialogue the two leaders have moved beyond the Minsk Group 
proposals and want to find a "more innovative and bold solution" the official 
said.
"The Minsk Group is now looking at the discussions that they have been having to 
craft a new Minsk Group proposal that would reflect and build upon these 
discussions," he said, noting that the group will meet again February 2 in 
Vienna.



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