Reps. Schiff Pallone Knollenberg Condemn Brutal Slaying of Armenian Soldier

WASHINGTON–DC–California Democrat Adam Schiff and Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-chairs Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ)–condemned the vicious murder of an Armenian soldier by his Azeri colleague at a NATO sponsored education program in Hungary last week–reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

"I was shocked and saddened to hear of the Armenian soldier’s horrific murder in Hungary," stated Rep. Schiff–in a statement submitted to the ANCA yesterday. "While we do not yet know all of the circumstances of the soldier’s tragic death–this incident reinforces the need for Azerbaijan to end its propaganda regarding Karabagh and reach a negotiated settlement of the Karabagh issue. Regrettably–the Administration has requested 4 times more military assistance for Azerbaijan than Armenia. I hope Congress will step in and correct this funding injustice against Armenia–one of America’s strongest allies in the region."

Rep. Pallone echoed similar concerns–stating that–"this unfortunate tragedy shows how dangerous Azerbaijan’s war propaganda can be not only in Azerbaijan but around the region. It’s time the Azerbaijani government reject shocking propaganda that does nothing more than reignite xenophobia and extremism."

Rep. Knollenberg noted that–"I am deeply saddened by the horrific murder of Lt. Gurgen Markarian. It is a tragedy that the Partnership for Peace program has been marred by this murder. I expect nothing less than a full investigation and complete justice for those responsible."

Lt. Gurgen Markarian was brutally axed and stabbed to death last Thursday by Azerbaijani Lt. Ramil Safarov during a NATO language-training seminar in Hungary. Hungarian officials have arrested Safarov and are continuing their investigation in the matter. Following the slaying–the Armenian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying the killing in Hungary was "the logical consequence of anti-Armenian hysteria that has been left unleashed by the Azeri authorities over the years and of (Azerbaijan’s) war-mongering–militarist propaganda."

NATO officials characterized the incident as a clear criminal act on Friday and–according to the RFE/RL report on the topic–expressed it hopes the tragic incident will not affect Armenia’s "strong participation" in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program.

"The brutal murder of the Lt. Gurgen Markarian by his Azerbaijani counterpart has drawn the attention of the international community to the growing anti-Armenian sentiment being fostered by the Azerbaijani government–as well as its ongoing obstruction of the Karabagh peace process and efforts to exclude Armenia from NATO exercises," explained ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "The Azerbaijani government’s violent rhetoric–its destabilizing actions–and the very real human costs of their decisions need to be addressed immediately and decisively by the US government and the international community before this tragedy is repeated on a larger scale."

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