Over the past week, a serious diplomatic scandal has brewed up between Hungary, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. The story starts like this: an Azeri officer, Ramil Safarov, along with an Armenian officer, attended a NATO Partnership for Peace conference in Hungary where, during the meeting, the Azeri officer alleged that the Armenian officer insulted his country. At some point thereafter, Ramil Safarov purchased an ax, which he used to brutally murder the sleeping Armenian officer at night, nearly severing his head. He then attempted to kill another sleeping Armenian officer in another room, but was not able to get through the door before he was finally caught by authorities. For his brutal murder, the Azeri officer was sentenced to life in a Hungarian prison without the possibility of parole until 2036. However, during the time of the sentencing, the murderer was awarded “Man of the Year 2005” by the radical Azerbaijan National Democratic party.
It should be noted that Armenia and Azerbaijan, neighboring ex-Soviet states, have had very poor relations as a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. Nagorno-Karabakh is a historically Armenian land that was given to Soviet Azerbaijan by Stalin as a result of his divide and conquer tactics. During the break-up of the Soviet Union, when many states were declaring their independence, this majority Armenian territory declared independence from Soviet Azerbaijan using legal means enshrined in the Soviet Constitution. In response to this expression of self-determination, Karabakh was brutally attacked by Azeri forces and a war ensued for several years. The Armenians were eventually able to liberate and secure Karabkah and a ceasefire was signed in 1994; however, the territorial dispute is still simmering and is a source of major tension between the two states.
In Azerbaijan, anti-Armenian propaganda has reached alarming levels; any person with an Armenian surname has been banned from entering the country, and the President, in a recent statement, has said that “our main enemies are the Armenians of the world.” History has also been falsified in Azerbaijan in order to suggest that present day Armenia is actually ancient Azeri land. Given these actions, the glorification of this Azeri murderer should be of no surprise to anyone. Several years later, Azerbaijan was able to secure the extradition of Safarov from Hungary; however, there is strong evidence indicating that the transfer was the result of an under the table deal between top Hungarian and Azeri officials. Hungary, a country currently in deep financial problems, somehow managed to secure Azeri purchases of some 2-3 billion Euros worth of Hungarian government bonds in compensation for Safarov’s extradition. Hungary, denying the accusations, has stated that its extradition was conducted legally with assurance that Safarov’s life sentence would be enforced in Azerbaijan. But to the contrary, Hungary continued to assure Armenians that no extradition would happen at all. Upon Safarov’s arrival in Azerbaijan, he was pardoned by the President and was received as a national hero. His rewards for his crime included receiving flowers, a promotion to the rank of Major, eight years of pay, and a nice apartment in the capital – all this for a person who murdered an innocent man in his sleep. Armenia, in response, suspended its ties with Hungary while global condemnation poured onto Azerbaijan.
The pardon has since derailed the peace talks regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute and created a very high amount of tension between both Armenia and Azerbaijan. Hungarians have become deeply upset over their government’s action and are calling for the resignation of the Prime Minister, who was responsible for the deal. Let’s hope that justice is properly served as the world waits to see what actions are taken in the coming days.