Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Maronyi said on Wednesday that Switzerland has offered to help his country mend ties with Armenia in the dispute over by the release from a Hungarian prison of the Azerbaijani axe-killer of an Armenian army officer.
He said Switzerland’s Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter made the mediation offer when they met in Berne on Monday.
“Hungary has accepted Switzerland’s proposal to mediate in settling the dispute with Armenia resulting from the extradition of the Azerbaijani killer [Ramil Safarov,]” Martonyi told Hungarian public radio. He said Switzerland is in a position to do that because of its traditionally neutral status and ample experience in dispute mediation.
Armenia was quick to dismiss Martonyi’s statement. “I don’t think that there is a need for mediation here,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Tigran Balayan told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “What we need is clear steps by the Hungarian authorities.”
Balayan did not specify what those steps should be.
Official Yerevan suspended diplomatic relations with Budapest on Friday just hours after Safarov was flown to Baku and immediately pardoned by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Announcing the dramatic move, President Serzh Sarkisian said Hungarian officials had repeatedly assured the Armenian side that Safarov will not be extradited to Azerbaijan. Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian suggested on Tuesday that Budapest succumbed to corrupt practices “exported” by Azerbaijan.
Martonyi insisted, however, that “economic considerations” played no part in Safarov’s extradition. He stood by the official Hungarian line that Baku broke a pledge to ensure that the Azerbaijani officer serves the rest of his life sentence in Azerbaijan.
“The key thing now is to make the Armenians understand that Hungary has always considered them friends,” added the chief Hungarian diplomat.