President Serzh Sarkisian appeared to express on Wednesday his dissatisfaction with the European Union’s reaction to Azerbaijan’s decision to pardon, promote and reward Azerbaijani axe-killer Ramil Safarov immediately after his extradition from Hungary.
Meeting with Philippe Lefort, the EU’s visiting special envoy to the South Caucasus, Sarkisian was quoted by his press office as praising “a number of European structures” for denouncing Safarov’s pardoning.
“At the same time, the President assessed as unacceptable and incomprehensible some supposedly ‘balanced’ but, in fact, absolutely inadequate responses to that hideous act,” the office said in a statement. “President Serzh Sarkisian is convinced that the glorification of the criminal by the Azerbaijani authorities deserves an unconditional condemnation, particularly by our EU partners.”
The statement did not specify the reactions criticized by Sarkisian.
The Armenian leader might have been displeased by a joint statement issued by spokespersons for the EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele on September 3. While expressing concern at Safarov’s release from prison, they urged both Armenia and Azerbaijan to “exercise restraint, on the ground as well as in public statements, in order to prevent an escalation of the situation.”
The United States and Russia reacted to the pardon granted by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on August 31 in stronger terms. In particular, the U.S. State Department was “extremely troubled” by the development.
Aliyev again defended his decision and dismissed Yerevan’s furious reaction to it when he met the Vienna-based ambassadors of the U.S., Russia and other OSCE member states on Monday. He said the Armenian side is using the issue as an excuse to disrupt the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process.
“They are creating an unnecessary fuss inside their country,” Aliyev said in remarks posted on his website. “I understand the Armenian president’s domestic problems in connection with my decree on the pardon. But that is his problem and not the region’s problem.”
In their joint statement, Ashton and Fuele also pointedly declined to criticize Hungary for repatriating Safarov more than eight years after he hacked to death Armenian Lieutenant Gurgen Markarian during a NATO training course in Budapest. Furthermore, echoing the official Hungarian line, they said that the extradition was carried out “in the framework of the Convention of Strasbourg on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons.”
Yerevan insists that the Budapest government is using the convention as a smokescreen for its secret deal with Baku. It says the Hungarian side always knew that Safarov would be set free on is return home.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban and other Hungarian leaders have said that their actions were consistent with international law and that Azerbaijan had promised to uphold Safarov's sentence.
Attila Mesterhazy, the leader of the main opposition Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP), dismissed these statements and demanded Orban’s resignation on Tuesday. According to the Hungarian MTI news agency, he said the “morally bankrupt” premier was aware of Aliyev’s intention to free the murder convict. Mesterhazy pointed to Orban’s admission that he knew the consequences of Safarov’s handover to Azerbaijan in advance.
“Nothing happened after our decision that we would not have reckoned with in advance,” Orban told a news conference earlier on Tuesday.