Armenia ‘Ready For War’ After Azerbaijan Pardons Axe-Killer


The Beverly Hills Courier
Sept 3 2012

Armenia warned Azerbaijan it was ready for war as tensions soared
Monday between the ex-Soviet foes after Baku pardoned and promoted
an Azerbaijani officer who axed an Armenian soldier to death.

Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev last week immediately pardoned
Ramil Safarov after he was extradited from Hungary, where he had been
serving a life sentence for the 2004 killing.

Safarov was also promoted to the rank of major, given a house and eight
years’ worth of back-pay after returning home to a hero’s welcome,
in defiance of assurances from Baku to Budapest that he would serve
out his term in Azerbaijan.

“We don’t want a war, but if we have to, we will fight and win. We are
not afraid of killers, even if they enjoy the protection of the head
of state,” Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian fumed in a statement
late on Sunday.

“They (Azerbaijanis) have been warned,” he said, calling Azerbaijan
a country where “illicit orders set free and publicly glorify every
bastard who kills people only because they are Armenians”.

Safarov hacked Armenian officer Gurgen Margarian to death at a
military academy in Budapest where the servicemen were attending
English-language courses organised by NATO.

His lawyers claimed in court that he was traumatised because some of
his relatives had been killed during Azerbaijan’s war with Armenia,
and alleged that Margarian had insulted his country.

Armenia and Azerbaijan are locked in a long-running conflict over
the disputed region of Nagorny Karabakh, where they fought a war in
the 1990s.

Armenia-backed separatists seized Nagorny Karabakh from Azerbaijan
in the war that left some 30,000 people dead.

The two sides have not signed a final peace deal since the 1994
ceasefire and there are still regular firefights along the front line.

Analysts warn the frozen conflict risks slipping again into full-scale

Russia, which is part of the OSCE Minsk Group that is mediating in
negotiations to find a peaceful solution to the Karabakh conflict,
expressed “deep concern” over the extradition and pardon.

“We believe that these actions of the Azerbaijanis, as well as
the Hungarian authorities, go against the efforts agreed at an
international level primarily through the OSCE Minsk Group aimed at
reducing tension in the region,” Russian foreign ministry spokesman
Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement.

The OSCE Minsk Group said Monday its co-chairs had expressed “deep
concern and regret for the damage the pardon and any attempts to
glorify the crime had done to the peace process” at meetings with
both countries’ foreign ministers.

It stressed there was “no alternative to a peaceful settlement of
the Nagorny Karabakh conflict”.

The EU said Baku and Yerevan should refrain from exacerbating the

In a statement, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and
Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele said they “are concerned by
the news” of the pardon, adding that EU officials were “in contact
with the relevant authorities”.

EU officials will “continue to follow the situation closely,” the
statement said.

“In the interest of regional stability and on-going efforts towards
reconciliation,” Ashton and Fuele said they “reiterate their call
on Azerbaijan and Armenia to exercise restraint, on the ground as
well as in public statements, in order to prevent an escalation of
the situation.”

Baku on Monday accused Yerevan of launching a wave of attacks on
eight Azerbaijani websites including those of the president and
various news portals, sometimes posting photographs of the murdered
Armenian soldier.

“The very fact of this action speaks of the powerlessness of Yerevan,
resorting to the tactics of the weak,” Azerbaijani presidential
administration official Elnur Aslanov said in a statement.

The administration also published a series of letters from citizens
praising Aliyev for pardoning the convicted killer.

“I am grateful to you for the nationwide joy you have given us by
releasing Ramil Safarov, returning him to his homeland and, most
importantly, doing justice,” wrote one of them, Zamina Aliyeva.

Yerevan on Friday cut diplomatic ties with Hungary over the pardon,
while US President Barack Obama said he was “deeply concerned” about
the incident.

Hungary summoned Azerbaijan’s ambassador on Sunday to protest at
Baku’s decision after earlier saying it had been assured Safarov
would serve out his term.