NATO Chief Criticizes Baku for Axe-Killer’s Pardon

President Sarkisian with NATO Secretary General Rassmusen in Yerevan Thursday

Shirks NATO responsibility for Safarov’s extradition and subsequent pardon.

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Visiting Armenia on Thursday, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen added his voice to Western criticism of Azerbaijan’s decision to pardon the Azerbaijani army officer who had axed to death an Armenian colleague during a NATO training course in Budapest.

Rasmussen at the same time pointedly declined to criticize NATO member Hungary for making that possible by extraditing Ramil Safarov to Azerbaijan more than eight years after the brutal killing. He said the extradition followed “international norms and standards.”

Rasmussen was in Yerevan on the first leg of his tour of the three South Caucasus states that was overshadowed by the fallout from Safarov’s controversial release from a Hungarian prison. He faced hundreds of Armenians demonstrating in the capital to demand its strong condemnation by NATO.

“I am deeply concerned by the Azerbaijani decision to pardon army officer Safarov,” Rasmussen told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) in an interview. “This very tragic and terrible incident happened eight years ago and it was a crime. Such a crime should not be glorified, and the decision taken by Azerbaijan damages trust and does not contribute to peace and reconciliation.”

“Having said that, it is also important that we do not return to conflict,” he said. “On the contrary, it is crucial to work for a reduction of tensions and promote peace and reconciliation.”

“I will raise [the issue] during my visit to Baku and I will convey this very clear message to the Azerbaijani authorities,” added the former Danish prime minister.

Rasmussen made a similar statement after his ensuing talks with President Serzh Sarkisian that touched upon the Safarov affair and its implications. Sarkisian reiterated Yerevan’s furious reaction to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s decisions to pardon the convicted axe-murderer and reward him with a higher military rank and hefty material benefits immediately after his repatriation.

“Azerbaijan has turned itself into a sponsor of the crime with its own hands,” Sarkisian told a joint news conference with the NATO chief. “This is an unacceptable, inadmissible and condemnable phenomenon that deals a big blow to the aims of the [NATO] Partnership for Peace program and seriously jeopardizes regional security in the South Caucasus. In this situation, nobody has the moral right to stay silent and ignore what happened.”

Rasmussen was greeted by angry demonstrators

Sarkisian also again hit out at Hungary, with which his government has suspended diplomatic relations. He said the Hungarian government must have known in advance that Safarov, who was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Hungarian court in 2006, will be set free on his return home.

Official Budapest insists that the extradition was based on a European convention to which both Azerbaijan and Hungary are signatories. It says it had received formal assurances from Baku that Safarov will serve the rest of his jail term in an Azerbaijani prison.

Rasmussen clearly backed the official Hungarian position when he addressed students and professors at Yerevan State University (YSU) earlier in the day. “I understand that the transfer of Mr. Safarov from Hungary to Azerbaijan has taken place based on an agreement that follows international norms and standards,” he said, answering a question from one of the students.

Rasmussen also stressed that neither NATO nor Hungary should be held responsible for the killing of Armenian Lieutenant Gurgen Markarian during an English-language course that was organized by NATO in Budapest in 2004 for military officers from partner states.

“It was a crime committed by an individual, an Azerbaijani army officer,” he said. He was brought to court in Hungary, he was sentenced to many years in prison, and he was treated in Hungary according to the basic principles of the rule of law.”

As Rasmussen spoke hundreds of mostly young people demonstrated outside the sprawling YSU building in central Yerevan to express their anger about Safarov’s release and demand its unequivocal condemnation by NATO.

President Sarkisian, meanwhile, made clear that the bitter row with Hungary “must not cast a shadow on our relations with NATO.” “Armenia is ready and determined to maintain and develop the current level of cooperation,” he said after the talks.

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21 Comments

  1. AraK said:

    “It was a crime committed by an individual…” pardoned and glorified by Azerbaidjan. Nice.
    Oil…

  2. Roxann Petzold said:

    Rasmussen states, “It was a crime committed by an individual…” What he fails to recognize is that the Azerbaijan government became complicit in the crime the minute he was pardoned and promoted. If organizations like NATO are so wrapped up in the fear of offending those countries that commit crimes against humanity then we are all at the mercy of power mongers. We must not sit back and watch – we must use our right to protest through email, letters, phone calls and marches so they don’t forget that these crimes are evil and unacceptable.

  3. bigmoustache said:

    did the armenians accept rasmussens excuse for hungary? is he seriously trying to tell us hungary had no knowledge that safarov would be welcomed a hero? they should have lynched this puppet for coming to armenia and saying this to us.

  4. Krikor said:

    Mr Rasmussen, words are cheap. We, Armenians want to see some concrete measures from NATO

  5. Stephen T. Dulgarian said:

    Shame on the Hungarian Government for releasing Safarov for the Axe-Killing of Lt. Gurgen Markarian in his sleep. If the world governments don’t condemn his release, then future acts of this nature will continue. Rasmussen of NATO is wrong in saying the extradition follows” international norms & standards”. The NATO nations must react to his statement and correct his make up statement.

  6. ARA said:

    r we that nutty to think for 1 second themongrol azeris really car? the hungarian bastards that allowed it -they r turks-with a ho9le in their soul= come on now- revenge! they will eat their act!

  7. john said:

    The only reliable partners are Russia, Greece and Iran. That is why we need an Orthodox Union which would include Russia, Serbia, Armenia, Cyprus , Belarus and possibly even Greece. Who knows, maybe the Greeks will say hell to the EU

  8. john said:

    The visit of Rasmusson to Armenia and the release of the Azeri ax murderer were obviously coordinated events and NATO pressured Hungary to release this thug.

  9. John Ahmaranian said:

    NATO is the Arab League replica. Its politicians are gradutes from the departement of chat, intrigue, and
    political impotence. The podium for graduation is the Jerusalem wailing Wall but in New York.
    Hundreds of condemning resulutions, hundred of prescripions are offered but the sick man is suffering from legalism, protectionism, favoritism. The weeping Nato’s job is to sent i are its bteu bereted officials with dops of tear to cure animosity and frustation among people.
    Armenia is fed up with these promesses and condamnation. They caome to Armenia to sip the Armebian coffee and eat apricot. They make beautuful condemnation with no tangeble result. Theire is no condemnation this time. God knows how many petrodollar were paid to buy the silence that reigns over the dead Pharoeh! Political Organizations are paid for their speackers, Nato speakers are paid for their silence. Next time you come to Armenia, dear NATO, come as tourrists. At list you will not obstract the trafic in Yerevan!

    The General Secreta ry must take action by ezpelling the country called Azarbayjan

  10. John Ahmaranian said:

    NATO is the Arab League replica. Its politicians are gradutes from the departement of chat, intrigue, and
    political impotence. The podium for graduation is the Jerusalem wailing Wall but in New York.
    Hundreds of condemning resulutions, hundred of prescripions are offered but the sick man is suffering from legalism, protectionism, favoritism. The weeping Nato’s job is to sent its bteu bereted officials with dops of tear to cure animosity and frustation among people.
    Armenia is fed up with these promesses and condamnation. They came to Armenia to sip the Armebian
    coffee and eat apricot. They make beautuful condemnation with no tangeble result. Theire is no condemnation this time. God knows how many petrodollar were paid to buy the silence that reigns over the dead Pharoeh! Political Organizations are paid for their speackers, Nato speakers are paid for their silence. Next time you come to Armenia, dear NATO, come as tourrists. At list you will not obstract the trafic in Yerevan!

    The General Secreta ry must take action by ezpelling the country called Azarbayjan

  11. Lusik said:

    Please read my questions, Mr. Rasmussen.

    Q1: Do you think that all that Armenians need is you to raise and convey the message to Aliev? Are you aware that everyone in the world knows the importance of this kind of promise?

    Q2: Is this e-mailing task you took all that should be done, in your opinion? Don’t you want to take certain steps in order to discourage anything like this from happening in the future?

    Q2: Please, let us know how many cases like this one you personally find enough in order to name things as they are? 2 more? 3 more ?…

    Q4: Is your country of origin is better in any sense than this new born country Artsakh? Are your people in any terms have more or better rights to enjoy life without being constantly watching for axe-murderers like Safarov killing them in their sleep? I was a child and when traveling with my father, he would always say as we were crossing an Azeris village “Never stop here at night. You will be slaughtered (mortel, in Armenian)”.

    It is so in fashion today to speak about humanity. Politicians use and abuse it for taking offices. But when it is tame to follow the humanity, the bargain and special interests under disguise of pragmatism come forward.

    Nobody doubted about steps that Aliev took. But what are your steps, Mr. Rasmussen? Are you really different?

    Good luck to you and thank you in advance for your answers.

  12. GB said:

    The real intention of NATO to get in S. Caucasus…Their main long term goal is the OIL wells of rich N. Caucasus, around Caspian basin, RF Chechnya and Daghestan Muslim republics, and Kazakhstan, where %25 of Western energy supplied by Russia from there today!!

    Embargo of Iranian oil shipment, makes Russia’s position important than ever. Russia can supply even %50, of their oil toward Western Europe , if Iran end up with a shoot out with NATO and Israeli forces around Strait of Hormuz, with their newly improved missile system!!They don’t need nuclear bombs!!

    Turkey and Saudis already send their Allah lovers missionaries and saboteurs to N. Caucasus, and the only country, that can be objective for all these Western projects is landlocked Armenia, where easily can be filled with Russian troops!! This is why now we see how NATO boss is in Armenia for consultation!!Or even release of Safarov, there is many players behind these political activities, in order to weaken Armenia’s position, as much as they can…even opening the Turkish border is a part of the game, Turks are a flexible toy by NATO!!

    But at the end Turks will do what they did in 1915, they know the West will abandon us after few warm words about AG and compassion and praises, then Russia will leave us for punishments, then Turks easily will invade from both fronts, Turkish front and Azer baboons, and for sure NATO will stay neutral until the end comes, West as usual will blame Turks politically to satisfy the left over Armenians moral, who will be in refugee camps in Western countries or in Russian Federation, like today’s Syria! This is why Tatar-Turks are quieter these days around Armenian borders!!!they remember what happened to Georgia, West did nothing!!

    Who said Armenian geopolitical location is not important??All we need now, good chess players and better politicians from Armenia’s side!! Can we rely on Serge and Edward and others and improve counties corruption and social phenomenon, that is more danger to Armenian security, than NATO’s intention??Only future will tell us!!

  13. Ararat said:

    Actions speak louder than words. NATO is only giving lip service. Don’t trust these Turk lovers. They will sell their mothers for cheap oil. NATO’s self-interest will always supersede Armenia’s interests.

    It is simple arithmetic. Up until twenty years ago it was the Cold War and today it is US war in Iraq and Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda and Islamic terrorism that Turkey is using to her advantage to dictate NATO’s course of action in the region and NATO member states’ course of action in regards to Armenia and the Armenian Cause.

    NATO supports Turkey and Turkey calls Azerbaijan an extension of Turkey. It can’t be any clearer than that. Armenians must wake up and realize that if they want any leverage in this world they will need to speak from a position of strength.

    Given the fact that Armenia is surrounded by genocidal Turks and their Azerbaijani Slaves and given the fact that both NATO and the West will always come up short in defense of Armenia but rather in support of their ally Turkey, therefore in support of Turkish proxy Azerbaijan, Armenia must realize that this strength can only be achieved through acquiring nuclear weapons.

    Only then this sick world will respect and take our grievances seriously. Look at Israel, a country half the size of today’s Armenia, and over 300 million rich Arabs with deep pockets and with their oil fields that practically run this world can’t touch Israel. Why? Because Israel has nuclear weapons.

  14. zograp said:

    turks mongol are only one people who can massacre babies in their mothers stomach and who can betray and backstab every one who once trusted them even in their most miserable times! .turks mongol also played a BIG ROLE in HITLER’s ARMY while massacring the JEWISH people turks mongol.are known worldwide by their enormeous killer and rubber habits.TRADITION! SO fuck turks mongol

  15. AraK said:

    We can huff and puff as much as we can, it’s OIL that runs in veins of the west and the east and the north and the south. NOBODY is our ally and on NOBODY we should count on! Unfortunately our country is getting weaker and weaker thanks to migration because this endless endemic corruption! We should start cleaning our backyard first before accusing others…

  16. john said:

    The Armenian government must join the Eurasian Union.The Armenian government must be very childish to think that the EU and NATO are Armenia’s friends. It was NATO that gave Turkey the approval to invade Cyprus. It is NATO that is training and arming the Azeris. If the Armenian government were smart, it would allow the Russians to build nuclear missle bases in Arsakh and in Armenia including short range SS-26 Iskandar missles to knock out the NATO missle shield radars in Turkey and Bulgaria and missles to attack NATO ships in the black and mediterrean sea. The Europeans are responsible for arming and protecting the Turks for many centuries. The Europeans slaughtered the poor Serbs with cluster bombs and allowed Turkey to continue to occupy Cyprus. Europe deserves to be destroyed by the Turks because they are so stupid.

  17. John said:

    If the Russians are not interested in nuclear missle bases in Armenia, maybe Armenia should offer nuclear missle bases to China. China is being surrounded by enemies and it needs a more advanced second strike capacity and Armenia is the perfect location. China can house both ICBM’s and anti-shipping Dong Feng antishipping ballistic missles to knock out NATO naval forces in the mediterrean.

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