NEW YORK–Nearly 30 Armenian-American leaders and opinionmakers gathered for a breakfast briefing at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan–on May 10–where US Dept. of State Special Negotiator Carey Cavanaugh–presented an overview of the current settlement process over Nagorno-Karabakh. The event was sponsored by the Armenian National Committee (ANC) of New York.
In a 45-minute presentation–Ambassador Cavanaugh recounted the ongoing peace-negotiations–which he and his OSCE counterparts have conducted with the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia–Haidar Aliyev and Robert Kocharian. Cavanaugh asserted that the two leaders have moved far closer than expected toward a settlement–mainly due to the special format and environment provided at the recent talks at Key West–Florida. Community leaders then followed up by asking Cavanaugh specific questions about the emerging proposal.
When asked if the two presidents were discussing the creation of a land corridor connecting Nakhichevan and Azerbaijan–Cavanaugh refused to comment–claiming that he must respect the request of the two presidents regarding non-disclosure. This response was a departure from the answer given by Cavanaugh’s deputy–Ken Hillas–during an April 29 public forum–where he said that no land corridor was being discussed–and that recent reports of such a corridor by The Economist were erroneous.
Dr. Vartan Grigorian–President of the Carnegie Foundation–asked whether the protection of cultural monumen’s was being included in the settlement talks. Cavanaugh answered affirmatively and claimed that both sides were making efforts to protect the other nation’s cultural edifices.
Cavanaugh was also asked about how the negotiations would address the issue of refugees–particularly those who were driven out of Baku and Sumgait in 1988. He responded by emphasizing the plight of Azeri refugees driven from lands surrounding Karabakh–but did not offer any insights into Armenian refugee issues.
Cavanaugh’s forecast regarding the pending peace proposal also raised concerns about the process whereby the respective countries would approve a final agreement. Regarding the Armenian side–he characterized President Kocharian as a "military leader" who has had little experience at marketing or selling ideas–and "who doesn’t ask his troops which way to march up the hill." Cavanaugh also expressed the belief that neither leader anticipated long deliberations with their publics about the proposal.
"We are pleased that Ambassador Cavanaugh has shown willingness to engage in direct discussions on an issue of great importance to us all," said ANC of New York Chairman Alex Sarafian. "At the same time–there are still questions over the transparency of the peace process–and concerns that Nagorno-Karabakh is still not a direct participant in the negotiation process to date."
Present at the briefing were a wide variety of Armenian community representatives–including the following individuals: Koko Salbashian–Armenian Democratic Liberal Organization; Diane Paravazian–Armenian Assembly of America; Sandra Vartanian–Armenian Relief Society; Lily Ferrara and Sarig Armenian–representing Congressman Joseph Crowley; Jirair Beudjekian and Jason Sohigian–Hairenik Association; Florence Avakian–Armenian Mirror Spectator; Talar Sesetyan–Armenian Radio Hour of NJ; Aram Adishian–ANC of New Jersey; David Attarian–Doug Geogerian–and Aram Sarafian–ANC of New York; Ara Arslanian–Antranik Boudakian–Dr. Vartan Gregorian–Dr. Arthur Kubikian–Harry Koundakjian–Onnic Marashian–and Andrea and Annie Pampanini.