Hungary Claims ‘Serious’ Harm To U.S. Ties From Safarov Case

Hungarian's protested their government's decision to extrafite Safarov

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Hungary’s relations with the United States have been seriously damaged by the repatriation of an Azerbaijani army officer jailed for axe-murdering an Armenian colleague in Budapest, according to a senior Hungarian government official.

Zsolt Nemeth, the state secretary at the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, acknowledged a “serious bilateral loss of confidence” with the U.S. in a Thursday interview with the “Nepszabadsag” daily cited by the Hungarian MTI news agency. That, he said, is the result of a “fundamental misunderstanding” between the two NATO allies.

A senior U.S. administration official told RFE/RL last week that the State Department is continuing to express “dismay and disappointment” with Ramil Safarov’s August 31 extradition from Hungary to Azerbaijan and his immediate pardoning by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon said Washington is “not satisfied” with official explanations given by Budapest and Baku.

The extradition has also been criticized by some pro-Armenian members of the U.S. Congress. One of them, Senator Robert Menendez, said on September 6 that the Hungarian government “must now demand the return of Safarov to complete his life-sentence.”

The U.S. criticism reflects a serious blow that has been dealt by the Safarov case to international efforts to end the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. U.S., Russian and French diplomats spearheading those efforts cited that “damage” in a recent joint statement that denounced the convicted axe-killer’s release.

The mediators had planned to arrange fresh talks between the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers in New York on the sidelines of this week’s session of the UN General Assembly. The Armenian side is understood to have refused those talks in protest against a hero’s welcome given to Safarov in Baku. The two ministers held only separate meetings with the mediating troika.

The Hungarian government has defended the legality of Safarov’s handover to Azerbaijan. It claims to have received prior assurances from the Azerbaijani government that the officer will serve out his life sentence in an Azerbaijani prison.

The European Union has essentially accepted this explanation. Unlike the U.S. and Russia, it has avoided any public criticism of Hungary, an EU member state.

Armenia maintains that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government knew that Safarov will be set free on his return home when it cut a secret “deal” with Baku earlier this year. Yerevan suspended diplomatic relations with Budapest immediately after the extradition.

Nemeth assured the Hungarian newspaper that Orban’s government has received “no direct compensation of any kind” from Baku in return for Safarov’s extradition. He also said that Budapest will make “every effort” to normalize relations with Armenia and believes this can be done in the next few months.

The Hungarian Foreign Ministry urged Yerevan to restore diplomatic ties “without precondition” in a note sent on Monday. The Armenian Foreign Ministry rejected the offer, saying that it expects unspecified “practical and clear steps” from Budapest.

A Hungarian Foreign Ministry spokesman rejected the Armenian “preconditions” on Wednesday. “There is not much else we can do now,” he said, according to an MTI report cited by


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  1. General said:

    To the hell with the Azerbaijani criminal national hero, the world famous axe murder, Ramil Safarov! Let fascist Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev appoint this axe murder to the head of his security guard! What Hungary should do is simply to recognize the independence of NKR!

  2. arziv said:

    Nato’s responsibility is totally ignored, or bypassed. It was a Nato organized course of language, and they were directly responsible for configuring rooms and room mates. The height of irresponsiblity or outright tomfoolery on the part of Nato.

  3. Ray said:

    There is somthing the Hungarian Goverment can do if they are brave enough and they want to make it right to the Internatioal Community? Be the first Nation to recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as a free Nation!

  4. Hrant K. said:

    There is a lot much the Hungarian Government can do now:
    A – Apologize to Gurgen Markarian’s family members and the Armenian Nation!
    B – Admit selling in secret Hungarian bonds(2-3 billion Euros worth) to azeri thugs!
    C – Help Armenia becoming a full European Union member and stop collaborating
    with azerbaijan for good!
    D – Demand from the azeris to return the murderer Savarov to the Hungarian prison,
    as the azeris have not kept their word of detaining the latter @ home, and instead promoted him
    and welcomed him as a “filthy hero” (what a joke, axing someone while asleep, that’s
    heroism-a la azeri !!! ) it take guts to kill someone while asleep!!
    E – The Hungarian corrupt Prime Minister can shut the f… up and resign!!!

  5. GB said:

    The axe diplomacy will pave, for the future recognition of Artsakh independence by the world powers!! Bako Sahakian should erect the statues of slain Armenian officer Gurgen Markarian right in the center of Artsakh capital, Stepanakert!!

  6. aziz said:

    there is something fishy about Azerbaijani issue cant believe the EU is bothering about it. i believe there is politics behind this