Sep 132012
 

P7_TA-PROV(2012)0356
Azerbaijan: the case of Ramil Safarov
European Parliament resolution of 13 September 2012 on Azerbaijan: the Ramil Safarov case (2012/2785(RSP))

The European Parliament ,

– having regard to its previous resolutions on the situation in Azerbaijan, in particular those concerning human rights,

– having regard to the established practice of international law regarding transfer, namely the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, under which it was agreed that cooperation should be developed in order to further the ends of justice and the social rehabilitation of sentenced persons, by giving them the opportunity to serve their sentences within their own society,

– having regard to the statement issued by its President, Martin Schulz, on 5 September 2012 concerning the pardon granted to Ramil Safarov in Azerbaijan,

– having regard to the joint statement issued by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, and Commissioner Štefan Füle on 3 September 2012 concerning the release of Mr Safarov,

– having regard to the statement issued by the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, on 4 September 2012,

– having regard to the official letter received by the Ministry of Public Administration and Justice of Hungary on 15 August 2012 from the Deputy Minister of Justice of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Vilayat Zahirov,

– having regard to its resolution of 18 April 2012 on the negotiations of the EU-Azerbaijan Association Agreement,

– having regard to the statement issued by the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, on 3 September 2012, in which he gave an assurance that Hungary had acted in accordance with its international obligations,

– having regard to the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and Azerbaijan, which entered into force in 1999, and to the ongoing negotiations between the two parties on a new association agreement to replace the previous one,

– having regard to Rules 122(5) and 110(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas Ramil Safarov had been jailed in a Hungarian prison since 2004 after brutally killing an Armenian colleague during a course sponsored by NATO’s Partnership for Peace Programme in Budapest; whereas Mr Safarov had pleaded guilty and had expressed no remorse, defending his action on the grounds that the victim was Armenian;

B. whereas on 31 August 2012 Mr Safarov, a lieutenant of the Azerbaijani armed forces who had been convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in Hungary, was transferred to Azerbaijan at the longstanding request of the Azerbaijani authorities;

C. whereas immediately after Mr Safarov was transferred to Azerbaijan the Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev, pardoned him in line with the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Article 12 of the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons;

D. whereas Article 9 of the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, to which Hungary and Azerbaijan are both signatory parties, states that a person sentenced in the territory of one state may be transferred to the territory of another in order to serve the sentence imposed on him or her, provided that the conditions laid down in that convention are met;

E. whereas the Deputy Minister of Justice of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Vilayat Zahirov, sent an official letter to the Ministry of Public Administration and Justice of Hungary on 15 August 2012, in which he stated that the execution of the decisions of foreign states’ courts regarding the transfer of sentenced persons to serve the remaining part of their prison sentences in the Republic of Azerbaijan were carried out in accordance with Article 9(1)(a) of the convention, without any conversion of their sentences; whereas he further gave an assurance that, according to the Criminal Code of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the punishment of a convict serving a life sentence could only be replaced by a court with a term of imprisonment for a specified period, and that the convict could be released on conditional parole only after serving at least 25 years of his or her prison sentence; and whereas the Azerbaijani authorities subsequently denied having given any diplomatic assurances to the Hungarian authorities;

F. whereas Lieutenant Safarov received a glorious welcome in Azerbaijan and a few hours after his return was granted a presidential pardon, set free and promoted to the rank of major during a public ceremony;

G. whereas the decision to set Mr Safarov free triggered widespread international reactions of disapproval and condemnation;

H. whereas on 31 August 2012 the Armenian President, Serzh Sargsyan, announced that Armenia was suspending its diplomatic relations with Hungary;

I. whereas Azerbaijan participates actively in the European Neighbourhood Policy and the Eastern Partnership, is a founding member of Euronest and has committed itself to respect democracy, human rights and the rule of law, which are core values of these initiatives;

J. whereas Azerbaijan has taken up a non-permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for the 2012-2013 period and committed itself to uphold the values enshrined in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;

K. whereas Azerbaijan is a member of the Council of Europe and a party to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) as well as to a number of other international human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

1. Stresses the importance of the rule of law and of honouring commitments made;

2. Deplores the decision by the President of Azerbaijan to pardon Ramil Safarov, a convicted murderer sentenced by the courts of a Member State of the European Union; regards that decision as a gesture which could contribute to further escalation of the tensions between two countries, and which is exacerbating feelings of injustice and deepening the divide between those countries, and is further concerned that this act is jeopardising all peaceful reconciliation processes within the societies concerned and may undermine the possible future development of peaceful people-to-people contact in the region;

3. Considers that, while the presidential pardon granted to Mr Safarov complies with the letter of the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, it runs contrary to the spirit of that international agreement, which was negotiated to allow the transfer of a person convicted on the territory of one state to serve the remainder of his or her sentence on the territory of another state;

4. Considers the presidential pardon granted to Mr Safarov as a violation of the diplomatic assurances given to the Hungarian authorities in Azerbaijan’s request for transfer on the basis of on the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons;

5. Deplores the hero’s welcome accorded to Mr Safarov in Azerbaijan and the decision to promote him to the rank of major and pay him eight years’ back salary upon his arrival, and is concerned about the example this sets for future generations and about the promotion and recognition he has received from the Azerbaijani state;

6. Takes the view that the frustration in Azerbaijan and Armenia over the lack of any substantial progress as regards the peace process in Nagorno-Karabakh does not justify either acts of revenge or futile provocations that add further tension to an already tense and fragile situation;

7. Expresses its support for the ongoing efforts of the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the Member States to defuse tensions and ensure that progress is made towards peace in the region;

8. Supports the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group in their efforts to secure substantial progress in the peace process in Nagorno-Karabakh with a view to finding a lasting, comprehensive settlement in accordance with international law;

9. Insists that the EU should play a stronger role in the settlement of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh by supporting the implementation of confidence-building measures which will bring together Armenian and Azerbaijani communities and spread ideas of peace, reconciliation and trust on all sides;

10. Reiterates its position that the association agreement currently being negotiated between the EU and Azerbaijan should include clauses and benchmarks relating to the protection and promotion of human rights and the rule of law;

11. Condemns all forms of terrorism and the use of threats of terrorism;

12. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the EEAS, the European Council, the Commission, the respective governments and parliaments of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia, the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism.


Source: EuroParliament P7_TA-PROV(2012)0356 or Texts adopted at the sitting of Thursday 13 September 2012

Sep 062012
 

[…]
I am deeply concerned by the Azerbaijani decision to pardon the Azerbaijani army officer Safarov. The act he committed in 2004 was a terrible crime that should not be glorified. The pardon damages trust and does not contribute to the peace process. There must be no return to conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Tensions in this region must be reduced, and concrete steps must be taken to promote regional cooperation and reconciliation.
[…]


Source: NATO

Sep 042012
 

Viewpoint: Setback for peace in the Caucasus

By Thomas de Waal

This is a black week for those who are seeking a peaceful settlement of the long-running Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.

On 31 August, in a deeply provocative move, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev pardoned convicted murderer Ramil Safarov on his return to Baku from a Hungarian prison.

Safarov had been attending a Nato training-course in 2004 when he killed Armenian fellow officer Gurgen Markarian with an axe while he slept.

Back in 2004, the brutal killing on ethnic grounds caused an inevitable upsurge of emotion in both Armenia and Azerbaijan, which have been waging a conflict in various forms over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh since 1988.

There was an upsurge in the war of words in the media, which generally goes further than what officials allow themselves to say.

Markarian was given a state funeral. In Azerbaijan a few members of parliament dared to call Safarov a “hero,” but many Azerbaijanis felt ashamed at how his action reflected on their country and, mercifully, government officials mostly kept silent.

Eight years on, that has all turned round.

This is now a full-blown state-to-state row, with as yet unknowable consequences. For reasons that have yet to be fully explained, the Hungarian government negotiated the extradition of Safarov to Baku having secured an agreement, they maintained, that he would only be eligible for parole after having served the remainder of a 25-year prison term in an Azerbaijani jail.

Hero’s welcome
Instead, Safarov was pardoned. Leaving him a free man without public comment would have been bad enough. The Azerbaijani government went much further than that, treating Safarov as a hero. He was given an apartment in Baku and personally promoted to the rank of major by the defence minister.

Every action has a reaction. Unsurprisingly, the US government and the Russian foreign ministry reacted to the news with strong disapproval.

The spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also expressed alarm but stopped short of directly criticising its own member state, Hungary. The EU already has enough problems with controversial Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

As for Armenia, it appears to be close to boiling over. It has suspended diplomatic relations with Hungary and observers of the Karabakh negotiating process – already on the verge of failure – are watching apprehensively for what it will do next.

The Armenian government was already telling all foreign interlocutors how unhappy it was with the state of the peace process. There were tough questions to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in June as to why there was not a sharper US response to violations of the Armenian-Azerbaijani ceasefire, which are widely perceived to come more from the Azerbaijani side.

Yerevan could now be tempted to suspend its participation in the peace talks.

Some Armenian commentators are calling for more extreme steps such as recognising breakaway Armenian-controlled Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state. There will also be the inevitable worry that a fanatical Armenian will try to commit a revenge attack.

From the political perspective, to call the Azerbaijani government’s actions a mistake is an understatement. It is a worrying indication of the quality of advice that President Ilham Aliev is receiving from his inner circle.

Over the past few years, the government in Baku has spent tens of millions of dollars of its new oil revenues promoting the image of Azerbaijan as a new, modernising, dynamic country. The effect has been quite successful, with results ranging from Azerbaijan joining the UN Security Council to Baku hosting feel-good events such as the Eurovision Song Contest.

All that PR work now has to contend with a contrary image, of the government welcoming home an axe-murderer.
Sadly, the events of this week are a big boost for radicals on both sides.

They strengthen the hands of those Armenian hardliners who say that this proves that Azerbaijanis are barbarians who cannot be trusted.

In Azerbaijan, I know a substantial number of non-governmental activists and middle-level officials who have been working quietly on dialogue projects with Armenians. It is hard to see those going forward in the current environment.

If there is any silver lining to this dark episode it could be that the international community pays more attention to the dangers of a new Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. The conflict is not “frozen,” as it is frequently described.

The current format of quiet mediation by France, Russia and the US is not strong enough to move the two sides from their intransigent positions. The reception given Safarov suggests that the situation is moving closer to war than peace. This slide can be halted, but the time to start working harder on diplomacy is now.

Thomas de Waal is a senior associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington DC.


Source: BBC News

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
 

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

Jul 132012
 

YEREVAN, 13 July 2012 – The Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group (Ambassadors Robert Bradtke of the United States, Igor Popov of the Russian Federation, and Jacques Faure of France) and Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk (Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office) traveled July 10-13 to Baku, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Yerevan.

In Baku, the Co-Chairs met with President Aliyev and Foreign Minister Mammadyarov; in Nagorno-Karabakh they met with de facto authorities; in Yerevan, they met with President Sargsian, Foreign Minister Nalbandian, and Defense Minister Ohanyan. On July 11, the Co-Chairs again crossed the Line of Contact by foot. On July 12, they traveled from Nagorno-Karabakh to Yerevan via Kelbajar, their first visit to that region since the October 2010 Field Assessment Mission. In all their meetings, the Co-Chairs reaffirmed their countries’ resolute commitment to a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, as the Presidents of the three Co-Chair countries emphasized in their June 18 joint statement at Los Cabos.

The Co-Chairs continued discussions from their June 18 meeting in Paris with the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan. The Co-Chairs expressed their deep concern over recent incidents along the frontlines, and reiterated that the sides’ political will to achieve peace is best demonstrated by refraining from maximalist positions, respecting the 1994 ceasefire agreement, and abstaining from hostile public rhetoric.

Regarding reports of the planned opening of an airport in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Co-Chairs received renewed assurances from the sides that they will reject any threat or use of force against civil aircraft, pursue the matter through diplomatic steps, and refrain from politicizing the issue. The Co-Chairs reaffirmed that operation of this airport cannot be used to support any claim of a change in the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, and urged the sides to act in accordance with international law and consistent with current practice for flights over their territory.

The Co-Chairs plan to meet again separately with the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan in order to prepare for a joint meeting of the Ministers in September.


Source: OSCE Minsk Group page

Jun 192012
 

LOS CABOS, Mexico, 19 June 2012 – The President of the United States Barack Obama, the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, and the President of France François Hollande made the following statement on 18 June on Nagorno-Karabakh at the Los Cabos Summit of the Twenty:

“We, the Presidents of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries – France, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America – are united in our resolute commitment to a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The parties to the conflict should not further delay making the important decisions necessary to reach a lasting and peaceful settlement. We regret that the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia did not take the decisive steps that our countries called for in the joint statement at Deauville on May 26, 2011. Nevertheless, the progress that has been achieved should provide the momentum to complete work on the framework for a comprehensive peace.

“We call upon the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan to fulfill the commitment in their January 23, 2012 joint statement at Sochi to “accelerate” reaching agreement on the Basic Principles for a Settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict. As evidence of their political will, they should refrain from maximalist positions in the negotiations, respect the 1994 ceasefire agreement, and abstain from hostile rhetoric that increases tension. We urge the leaders to be guided by the principles of the Helsinki Final Act – particularly those relating to the non-use of force or the threat of force, territorial integrity, and equal rights and self-determination of peoples – and the elements of a settlement outlined in our countries’ statements at L’Aquila in 2009 and Muskoka in 2010.

“Military force will not resolve the conflict and would only prolong the suffering and hardships endured by the peoples of the region for too long. Only a peaceful, negotiated settlement can allow the entire region to move beyond the status quo toward a secure and prosperous future.

Our countries will continue to work closely with the sides, and we call upon them to make full use of the assistance of the Minsk Group Co-Chairs as mediators. However, peace will depend ultimately upon the parties’ willingness to seek an agreement based on mutual understanding, rather than one-sided advantage, and a shared vision of the benefits that peace will bring to all their peoples and to future generations.”


Source: OSCE Minsk Group page

Jan 232012
 

At the invitation of the President of the Russian Federation, the Presidents of the Republic of Armenia, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Azerbaijan met on January 23, 2012 in Sochi and discussed issues pertinent to the process and prospects of the resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.

The leaders of the three states underscored the great amount of work conducted towards the resolution of the NK conflict, starting from their meeting on November 2, 2008 when the Parties adopted the Moscow Declaration. The Presidents stated that intensive negotiations allowed to register progress in the reconciliation of the Basic Principles for the settlement of the NK issue.

In the view of the importance of starting the drafting of the Peace Agreement, the Presidents of the Republic of Armenia and Republic of Azerbaijan expressed readiness to expedite the process of reaching understanding with regard to the Basic Principles, taking into account all the works conducted so far.

The two Presidents hailed the mediation mission of the Russian Federation and other Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group and expressed hope that the RF, USA and France in that capacity will in the future also bring their active participation to the process of settlement until eventual peace and stability have been established in the region.

Further to the provision of the Joint Declaration adopted on March 5, 2011 in Sochi, the Presidents of the Russian Federation, the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan took note of the jointly drafted report by the Co-Chairs and the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office pertinent to the mechanisms for the investigation of the accidents along the line of contact and directed to continue that work.

The Presidents reaffirmed that in the context of the NK settlement, the development of humanitarian contacts between the parties is part of the confidence building measures. With this regard, the Presidents of the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan expressed readiness to encourage the establishment of a subsequent dialogue between the representatives of intelligentsia, scientific and social circles.


Original source: President of Russia [Rus]
Armenian source: President of Armenia
Azerbaijani source: President of Azerbaijan

Jun 252011
 

The President of the Republic had stated in Strasbourg that it would be possible to expect positive results, progress in Kazan if Azerbaijan did not propose new amendments.

Yet, the Kazan summit didn’t achieve a breakthrough, because Azerbaijan was not ready to accept the last version of the Basic Principles proposed by the three Co-Chairs.

In Deauville the Co-Chair countries had urged the Presidents to come to an agreement in Kazan. President Obama in his phone conversations with the Presidents had made the same call. The President of France Sarkozy had sent messages to the Presidents, as well.

Despite of it the Azerbaijani side proposed approximately a dozen of amendments, and that is the reason why the Kazan meeting did not prove to be a breakthrough.

In any case, I think the meeting was useful in the sense that the detailed discussions continued. And the important point is that President Medvedev, who made a great input in this process during the last three years, expressed willingness to continue his efforts towards according the principles and achieving a final agreement over them.

This was already the 12th meeting between the parties during the last three years. But during this last year Azerbaijan has, in fact, repeated this scenario of coming up with new amendments and proposals at least four times. This is the reality.

Nonetheless, we will continue the negotiations, because there is no other way for the settlement. It is possible to solve the conflict only through peaceful means and negotiations.


Source: Armenian MFA

May 262011
 

We, the Presidents of the OSCE Minsk Group’s Co-Chair countries — France, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America — are convinced the time has arrived for all the sides to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to take a decisive step towards a peaceful settlement.

We reiterate that only a negotiated settlement can lead to peace, stability, and reconciliation, opening opportunities for regional development and cooperation. The use of force created the current situation of confrontation and instability. Its use again would only bring more suffering and devastation, and would be condemned by the international community. We strongly urge the leaders of the sides to prepare their populations for peace, not war.

As a result of efforts by the parties and the Co-Chair countries at all levels, significant progress has been made. The latest version of the Basic Principles, as discussed in Sochi on March 5, lays a just and balanced foundation for the drafting of a comprehensive peace settlement. This document, based on the Helsinki Final Act and elements outlined in our joint declarations in L’Aquila in July 2009 and Muskoka in June 2010, provides a way for all sides to move beyond the unacceptable status quo.

We therefore call upon the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan to demonstrate their political will by finalizing the Basic Principles during their upcoming summit in June. Further delay would only call into question the commitment of the sides to reach an agreement. Once an agreement has been reached, we stand ready to witness the formal acceptance of these Principles, to assist in the drafting of the peace agreement, and then to support its implementation with our international partners.


Source: OSCE Minsk Group page