The European Union on Monday criticized Azerbaijan for freeing an Azerbaijani army officer who hacked to death an Armenian lieutenant in Hungary more than eight years ago.
“We are concerned by the news that the president of Azerbaijan pardoned Azerbaijani army officer Ramil Safarov who was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of an Armenian army officer in 2004,” Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told a news briefing in Brussels.
“We are closely following the situation and are in contact with relevant sides to obtain more information,” said Kocijancic. “We are particularly concerned with the possible impact that these developments might have on the wider region, and therefore we call on Azerbaijan and Armenia to exercise restraint on the ground and in public statements in order to prevent any kind of escalation of this situation.”
The official stopped short of criticizing EU member state Hungary’s decision to extradite Safarov to Azerbaijan, which has been strongly condemned by Armenia. She said only that the EU leaders in Brussels are now “in touch with the Hungarian authorities.”
“This is an exchange of information. But of course this is an ongoing story, and it’s possible that there will also be an exchange of information at the EU level,” Kocijancic said. Brussels-based representatives of EU member states might discuss the matter at a meeting slated for Tuesday, she added.
Ashton’s spokeswoman avoided commenting on Armenia’s decision to suspend diplomatic relations with Hungary in response to what Yerevan sees as a secret deal on Safarov’s extradition cut by the Hungarian and Azerbaijani governments.
Speaking after an emergency meeting of Armenia’s National Security Council on Friday, President Serzh Sarkisian urged the international community to respond to the development with “clear and unequivocal actions.” “Half-measures and empty talk are not acceptable,” he said in a warning that seemed primarily addressed to Western powers.
U.S. President Barack Obama expressed through a spokesman his “deep concern” and “disappointment” with Safarov’s release later on Friday. The spokesman said Washington also expects an official explanation from the Hungarian side.