Sep 042012
 

THE return to home and freedom of Ramil Safarov, an Azeri military officer and convicted murderer, has prompted one of central Europe’s biggest diplomatic storms. It has pulled in Russia, America and the European Union, and led to a new war of words in one of the world’s most volatile regions.

Safarov used an axe to murder a sleeping fellow student, an Armenian officer called Gurgen Margarjan, while both men were at a NATO English-language course in Budapest in 2004. Safarov justified himself by referring to Armenian atrocities against Azerbaijan in the conflict of 1988-94. He told the court that Lieutenant Margarjan, an Armenian, had taunted him about the contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh from where he was a refugee.

Hungary sent Safarov home, it says, on the understanding that he would serve the rest of his sentence in prison there. But on arrival in Baku, he was immediately pardoned, hailed as a national hero and promoted to major.

Armenia has reacted with fury and has severed diplomatic relations with Budapest. Angry protestors burnt the Hungarian flag in Yerevan, the Armenian capital, and pelted the consulate with tomatoes. Serzh Sarkisian, the president of Armenia, said the country was ready to fight if need be. “We don’t want a war, but if we  have to, we will fight and win. We are not afraid of killers, even if they enjoy the protection of the head of state.”

Patrick Ventrell, spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said that the United States was “extremely troubled” by the pardon of Safarov and would be seeking an explanation from both Budapest and Baku.

Russia, which has been deeply involved in efforts to ease relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, said that the actions of the Hungarian and Azerbaijani governments “contradict internationally brokered efforts” to bring peace to the region.

Hungary condemned the decision to release Safarov and said it had been misled by the Azerbaijan government. Hungarian officials said they had received assurances from Azerbaijan that Safarov would be released on parole only after serving at least 25 years.

The Hungarian media has reported that Azerbaijan has been pressing Hungary to release Safarov since his conviction. Many scent a dirty deal behind the scenes, as this post on Hungarian Spectrum, a liberal blog, outlines. The main theory is that  Azerbaijan had promised to buy state bonds from Hungary  in exchange for Safarov’s release.

Hungary needs the money. It has been in protracted and so far fruitless negotiations with the IMF and the European Union for a stand-by credit arrangement. The Hungarian government is actively seeking other potential investment partners in Asia and the Middle East. Mr Orbán visited Azerbaijan in June.

Hungarian and Azeri officials dismissed such claims.

On one level, the diplomatic crisis is surprising. Hungary’s diplomats are usually smart, supple and well-informed. During the Libyan crisis, while most diplomats fled, the Hungarian embassy in Tripoli stayed open. By the end of the seven-month conflict Budapest was representing some fifty absent governments. Hungary brokered the release of four western journalists and even managed to get Talitha von Zam, a Dutch model and former girlfriend of one of Colonel Gaddafi’s sons, out of the war-zone.

But it seems that the Safarov affair was masterminded by Viktor Orbán, the prime minister, and Péter Szijjártó, the minister for external economic relations, rather than the foreign ministry.

The extradition also raises questions about the EU’s credibility. It has just pledged €19.5 million ($25m) to reform oil-rich Azerbaijan’s justice and migration systems. So far, Catherine Ashton, the EU High Representative, has expressed only a tepid statement of “concern”.


Source: The Economist

Sep 042012
 

04/09/2012

Secretary General said that murder – such as that committed by Ramil Safarov – cannot be glorified

Strasbourg, 4 September 2012 – In a statement today the Council of Europe’s Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland said that murder – such as that committed by Ramil Safarov – cannot be glorified.
“Ramil Safarov was convicted for murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in Hungary. On August 31, he was transferred to Azerbaijan, and immediately pardoned. I do not want to comment on the legal proceedings, but I find it unacceptable that a convicted murderer is welcomed as a hero.”
“I reject the prospect of a world whose moral code begins to fray, where respect for human dignity is denied. This is not the Europe that we should wish for future generations. I condemn such glorification of crime, and urge that we all work to uphold the respect for life, and our values as defended by the Council of Europe”, he said.


Source: Council of Europe: Newsroom

Sep 032012
 

PRESS RELEASE

OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs meet with the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan

PARIS, 3 September 2012 – The Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group (Ambassadors Robert Bradtke of the United States of America, Igor Popov of the Russian Federation, and Jacques Faure of France) and the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-office, Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk, met on September 2 with the Foreign Minister of Armenia, Edward Nalbandian, and on September 3 with the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, Elmar Mammadyarov, to address recent events in the region and efforts to peacefully resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The Co-Chairs discussed with the two Ministers the August 31 decision of the Government of Azerbaijan to pardon Ramil Safarov, an Azerbaijani army officer who had been serving a life sentence in Hungary for the brutal 2004 murder of an Armenian officer in Budapest. They expressed their deep concern and regret for the damage the pardon and any attempts to glorify the crime have done to the peace process and trust between the sides.

The Co-Chairs reiterated to both Ministers that, as their Presidents stated in Los Cabos on June 19, there is no alternative to a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. They will continue to maintain contacts with the sides to reduce tensions and advance the peace process.


Source: OSCE Minsk Group page

Sep 032012
 

 

In Russia, which is the co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement, received reports with deep concern regarding the clemency of Baku Azeri serviceman Ramil Safarov, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for the commission of the murder of an Armenian officer with an extreme atrocity in Hungary in the 2004, as well as regarding the preceded decision of the Hungarian authorities to extradite him to Azerbaijan.

We believe that these actions of Azerbaijan, as well as the Hungarian authorities to run counter to the efforts agreed at international level, particularly through the OSCE Minsk Group, directed to reduce tension in the region.

We also expect that appropriate assessment of the situation will be given by the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group in the near future.

3 September, 2012


Source: MFA of Russia: 1. in English; 2. in Russian.

Sep 032012
 

EUROPEAN UNION

Brussels, 3 September 2012
A 389/12

Statement by the spokespersons of EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and Commissioner Štefan Füle on the release of Ramil Safarov

The spokespersons of Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the Commission and Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, issued the following statement today:

“The High Representative and Commissioner Füle are concerned by the news that the President of Azerbaijan has pardoned Azerbaijani army officer Ramil Safarov, who was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Armenian Army officer Gurgen Margaryan in Budapest in 2004.

Ramil Safarov was transferred from Hungary to Azerbaijan on 31 August on the basis of an Azerbaijani request, in the framework of the Convention of Strasbourg on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons of 21 March 1983, to serve the rest of his sentence. EU representatives are in contact with the relevant authorities and will continue to follow the situation closely.

In the interest of regional stability and on-going efforts towards reconciliation, the High Representative and Commissioner Füle reiterate their call on Azerbaijan and Armenia to exercise restraint, on the ground as well as in public statements, in order to prevent an escalation of the situation.”


Source: European External Action Service – A 389/12

Sep 032012
 

Azerbaijan – Pardon granted to M.Safarov – Statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman (September 3, 2012)

France expresses her concern following the announcement of the pardon granted to M. Safarov by the Azerbaijani authorities on Friday, 31 August. In Hungary in 2006 the Hungarian courts sentenced him to life imprisonment for the unspeakable murder of an Armenian officer in Budapest in 2004.

France, who, like the other co-chairs of the Minsk Group, is strongly committed to a peaceful solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, believes that this decision risks seriously damaging the negotiation efforts and the establishment of a climate of trust between the parties.


Source: France Diplomatie: 1. in English; 2. in French.

Aug 312012
 

President Obama is deeply concerned by today’s announcement that the President of Azerbaijan has pardoned Ramil Safarov following his return from Hungary. Safarov confessed to the murder of Armenian Army officer Gurgen Margaryan in Budapest in 2004, and was serving a life sentence in Hungary for this brutal crime. We are communicating to Azerbaijani authorities our disappointment about the decision to pardon Safarov. This action is contrary to ongoing efforts to reduce regional tensions and promote reconciliation. The United States is also requesting an explanation from Hungary regarding its decision to transfer Safarov to Azerbaijan.


Source: The White House

Aug 312012
 

Press Statement
Patrick Ventrell
Acting Deputy Spokesperson, Office of Press Relations
Washington, DC
August 31, 2012


The United States is extremely troubled by the news that the President of Azerbaijan pardoned Azerbaijani army officer Ramil Safarov, who returned to Baku today following his transfer from Hungary. Mr. Safarov had been serving a life sentence in a Hungarian jail for murdering Armenian officer Gurgen Margaryan during a 2004 NATO training event in Budapest.

We are expressing our deep concern to Azerbaijan regarding this action and seeking an explanation. We are also seeking further details from Hungary regarding the decision to transfer Mr. Safarov to Azerbaijan.

We condemn any action that fuels regional tensions.


Source: U.S. Department of State

Aug 312012
 

On 31 August, 2012 the Ministry of Public Administration and Justice of Hungary has announced about its authorisation to transfer Ramil Sahib Safarov, an Azerbaijani national imprisoned in Hungary since 19 February 2004, sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering Gurgen Margaryan, an Armenian national, to Azerbaijan.

In adopting such decision, the Ministry referred to the Strasburg Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons.

The transfer of Ramil Sahib Safarov has been executed without delay. Furthermore, President of Azerbaijan has issued a decree granting pardon to Ramil Sahib Safarov, who already enjoys freedom in Azerbaijan.

Ramil Sahib Safarov has been sentenced to life imprisonment by the Courts of Hungary for committing an act of murder against Gurgen Margaryan, an Armenian national. Both Safarov and Margaryan have been visiting Budapest to participate in a NATO PfP language training course. While the Government of Hungary as the host state, has failed to ensure the security of the Armenian participant at an international event on its territory, its law enforcement institutions and Courts have acted promptly to bring the perpetrator to justice.

The Government of Hungary has been informed on numerous occasions by the authorities of Armenia about the environment of glorification and justification of the murderous act of Ramil Sahib Safarov, cultivated in Azerbaijan at official level, including the level of President of Azerbaijan. The Government of Hungary could not have failed to note the numerous public statements of the Azerbaijani officials at different levels to this effect, which should have been sufficient grounds for the doubt about the continuation of the enforcement of the sentence in Azerbaijan. Therefore, the Government of Hungary should have foreseen the implications of its decision to transfer Ramil Sahib Safarov, which effectively resulted in the termination of serving justice by a perpetrator of a murderous act. The Government of Hungary therefore shares moral responsibility for sponsoring a grave criminal act.

The Government of Hungary, at different levels, including the highest, have consistently and up until the last moment assured the Government of Armenia that it will not take any steps whatsoever, which would result in the termination of serving justice by the perpetrator of a heinous murder and explicitly excluded any option for the execution of the transfer. The manner, in which the Government of Hungary has acted in respect of this matter, is also a cause for a deep regret.

Armenia considers the above decision of the Government of Hungary as an unfriendly act, undermining the good co-operative relations between Armenia and Hungary. Today the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia notified the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Hungary about the decision of the Government of Armenia to suspend diplomatic relations between the two states.


Source: MFA of Armenian