Home > Uncategorized > Armenia breaks off diplomatic relations with Hungary:       The Ramil Safarov affair

Armenia breaks off diplomatic relations with Hungary:       The Ramil Safarov affair

September 1, 2012

According to a seasoned former Hungarian diplomat, the Hungarian decision to extradite Lieutenant Ramil Safarov to Azerbaijan is “a much more serious scandal than it seems today.” Most likely he is right, although it took less then twenty-four hours for the case to receive worldwide attention and for Hungary to be condemned.

During the summer of  2004 NATO’s Partnership for Peace program organized a two-month program for officers from the member states in Budapest. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan joined the Partnership when it was established in 1994. The young officers were supposed to study English in the Hungarian capital. Ramil Safarov, an Azir national,  purchased an ax locally and at night when the Armenian officer, Gurgen Margaryan, was asleep he brutally hacked him into pieces. He practically severed the Armenian officer’s head.

During his trial Safarov freely admitted that the only reason for killing Margaryan was that he was an Armenian. He showed no remorse for his crime. In addition, while in jail he attacked the guards, for which he received two and a half years  in a separate trial. In 2006 the verdict was announced: he received a life sentence for premeditated murder. He has been in a Hungarian jail since.

The ethnic conflict between Azeris and Armenians is of long standing. The center of the conflict was a contested area, Nagorno-Karabakh, that during the Soviet period was artificially attached to the predominantly Muslim Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan in spite of the fact that the majority of the inhabitants were Christian Armenians. In 1988 war broke out between the two countries over the area; the war lasted almost six years and eventually ended in Armenia annexing the region. In 1994 a ceasefire was signed but peace talks have not been held. Thousands died on both sides, and  a huge demographic change occurred. About 230,000 Armenians from Azerbaijan and 800,000 Azeris from Armenia and Karabakh were displaced as a result of the conflict. Currently, Armenia’s population of about 3.5 million is 97% ethnic Armenian.

Ever since the sentencing of Ramil Safarov in 2006 the Azeris considered him to be a national hero, a fact that was well known to the Hungarian authorities. But if they hadn’t known it, the Armenians told them repeatedly in the last year or so. The warning intensified after Viktor Orbán visited the Azeri capital. Their worries must have been further heightened when Péter Szijjártó went to Baku to negotiate with the Azeris a month later.

I should mention here that Péter Szijjártó, who started off as a personal spokesman of Viktor Orbán, was elevated to be undersecretary in the prime minister’s office in charge of foreign affairs in June 2012. Thus, we can safely assume that Foreign Minister János Martonyi’s already meager role in the formation of Hungarian foreign relations has been further reduced. Now even foreign policy is directly conducted by Viktor Orbán. With questionable results, as we shall see.

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisyan breaks off
diplomatic relations with Hungary

What we can glean from the Armenian statements of late that the Hungarian government must have known what would happen if they released Safarov. According to the Armenian foreign ministry, they warned the Hungarian government, I assume through the Hungarian foreign ministry, that the Azerbaijani government sanctions the murder of the Armenian officer. The Hungarian government “on the highest level” assured the Armenians that “they will not take any steps that would lead to the freeing of the murderer.” Apparently that was the official Hungarian position “until the last minute.” According to Serzh Sarkisyan, the Armenian president,  “only a few days ago [they] were assured by the Hungarian foreign ministry and the speaker of the Hungarian parliament that “there was no way that they would hand over the criminal to Azerbaijan.”

Yet it happened. Safarov was released to Azerbaijan and was greeted as a national hero. On his arrival he was draped in the Azeri national flag and thousands of admirers presented him with flowers. He immediately received clemency from the Azeri president, Ilham Aliyev, and the minister of defense bestowed on him the rank of major.

Armenians are outraged. The government immediately decided to break off diplomatic relations with Hungary, and President Sakrisyan announced that “the Armenian nation will never forgive” Hungary for what happened. Normally the Armenians are not kidding.

Now the question is who knew what? Did the Hungarian foreign minister and the speaker of the Hungarian parliament lie when even in the last minute they claimed that there was no possibility of Hungary handing over Safarov to Baku? I venture to say that it is possible that in fact they didn’t know about the deal. Whether Tibor Navracsics lied–as his Armenian counterpart, Hrayr Tovmasyan, charged–is more likely, but I don’t exclude the possibility that he was assured byViktor Orbán about the Azeri president’s assurances.

But that Viktor Orbán knew about what would happen is certain. It was a “financial deal.” According to Armenpress, the official Armenian news agency, Hungary has been in serious negotiations with both Turkey and Azerbaijan for financial assistance for some time. The same news agency claims that Novruz Mammedov, the advisor to Ilham Aliyev on foreign affairs, has been engaged in secret negotiations concerning Safarov’s release to Azerbaijan for at least a year. According to widely held belief, the Azeris were ready to buy 3 billion euros worth of Hungarian bonds in exchange for the release of Safarov.

Immediately after the news broke of Safarov’s pardon the U.S. State Department released a press statement that read: The United States is extremely troubled by the news that the President of Azerbaijan pardoned Azerbaijani army officer Ramil Safarov, who returned to Baku today following his transfer from Hungary. Mr. Safarov had been serving a life sentence in a Hungarian jail for murdering Armenian officer Gurgen Margaryan during a 2004 NATO training event in Budapest. We are expressing our deep concern to Azerbaijan regarding this action and seeking an explanation. We are also seeking further details from Hungary regarding the decision to transfer Mr. Safarov to Azerbaijan.”

Even President Obama voiced his concern after the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), a lobbyist group in Washington, called on him “to publicly condemn Hungary for the release of the terrorist” Safarov. At the same time ANCA called on people “to take a moment to protest this travesty of justice.” ANCA asked “to call, e-mail or post a facebook message to the Hungarian ambasador to the US, His Excellency György Szapáry”. Well, the letters poured in. Here are a few of the thousands. “Don’t sleep Hungary! It’s dangerous nowadays!,” a reference to the fact that the Armenian officer was killed in his sleep. Or, ” Shame on you Hungary, Hungary supports a murderer!!!! :(((,” or “Gurgen Margaryan’s blood on the hands of Hungarian Justice.” And they go on like this endlessly.

The Hungarian opposition’s reaction is also one of outrage. LMP expressed their sympathy with the Armenian people. LMP’s statement emphasized that it would have been the duty of the foreign ministry to warn the ministry of administration and justice of the most likely consequences of releasing the Azeri murderer. They expressed hope that there is no connection between Azeri plans to purchase Hungarian government bonds and the release of a criminal.

DK as usual was more forthright. The leadership of the party demanded Tibor Navracsics’s resignation and suggested that parliament immediately convene a meeting of the committee on foreign affairs. In addition, they expressed their opinion that “Viktor Orbán sold the honor of Hungary.” With the release of Safarov the government sent a message to the world that “Hungary is  a country where human life is for sale, where someone who kills another person is not a criminal but a hostage who is kept in jail to be released in the hope of ransom.”

László Kovács (MSZP), former foreign minister and currently deputy chairman of the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, indicated that he will ask for an immediate meeting of the committee to discuss the matter of the release of the Azeri murderer. Kovács shares the widespread belief in opposition circles that Safarov was released in the hope of Azeri financial assistance to Hungary. However, Kovács considers the way that it was handled most unfortunate. The release should have been accompanied by Azeri guarantees so that, if the Azeri government violated the agreement, the Hungarian government could have immediately protested. But no Hungarian protest followed, which further strengthens the view that the Hungarian government knew full well what the Azeri government was planning to do as soon as Safarov arrives in Baku.

Today Fidesz released a statement that said only that the party fully supports the government on this issue since the transfer in no way contradicted international rules and regulations on extradition.  Gabriella Selmeczi, the spokeswoman of the party, cited the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons of 1983, which was later accepted by Hungary. Ramil Safarov, an Azeri citizen, asked for his transfer to Azerbaijan. Hungary only obliged.

A couple of hours later the ministry of foreign affairs and the ministry of administration and justice also released a statement. Although the statement emphasized that Hungary respects Christian Armenia and the culture and heritage of the Armenian people, it added that they regret Armenia’s decision to break off diplomatic relations with Hungary. This statement also referred to the 1983 Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons and righteously pointed out the absolutely legal way in which Hungary handled the transfer of Safarov.

Although I don’t think that either Foreign Minister János Martonyi or Minister of Justice Tibor Navracsics will resign as LMP and DK demanded, Martonyi without any prodding should do so. Orbán is making a clown out of him, and if he were a man of integrity he would have handed in his resignation a long time ago.

What will happen after this incident? Perhaps not much, but Viktor Orbán’s reputation will be further battered. And he is dragging the whole country after him into the abyss.

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  1. tappanch
    September 2, 2012 at 3:44 pm | #1

    By-election in the Fidesz stronghold of Hódmezővásárhely:

    Fidesz 52.3% (2010: 67%, 2006: 72%)

    Participation rate 33.1% (2010: 42%)

    This is what Fidesz leaders would like to see overall in 2014: winning the election with a mere 17% support in the adult population.

  2. September 2, 2012 at 4:41 pm | #2

    wolfi :

    You might try to read the comments on pol.hu:

    http://www.politics.hu/20120901/armenia-cuts-ties-with-hungary-over-azerbaijan-killer-pardon/#commentbottom

    There’s probably now more than 300 in two days – it’s unbelievable what level this has reached with “Azerbeijanis”, “Armenians”, “Romanians” and “Hungarians” clawing each other’s throats …

    But be warned: vulgarities abound – in a way it’s funny and surely stuff for a psychological analysis.

    I wonder what the international media will make of this – in cucumber season this might be “No 1″ …

    What disgusting characters. “Magyar” for example is a real price.

  3. September 2, 2012 at 4:58 pm | #3

    tappanch :

    By-election in the Fidesz stronghold of Hódmezővásárhely:

    Fidesz 52.3% (2010: 67%, 2006: 72%)

    Participation rate 33.1% (2010: 42%)

    This is what Fidesz leaders would like to see overall in 2014: winning the election with a mere 17% support in the adult population.

    Actually, I expected worse results. For Hódmezővásárhely this is not bad. Take a look at in Magyar Nemzet: http://mno.hu/belfold/meg-hornek-sem-tudtak-bevenni-a-varost-1101828

  4. CharlieH
    September 2, 2012 at 5:05 pm | #4

    London Calling!

    Goodness Wolfi! – such hatred; such rhetoric; and so many expletives!

    So much gets lost in a sea of expletives.

    I like the optimism of Rev Bill Munday trying to raise the debate!

    We are lucky here to have such articulate contributors.

    Regards

    Charlie

  5. September 2, 2012 at 5:18 pm | #5

    CharlieH :

    London Calling!

    Goodness Wolfi! – such hatred; such rhetoric; and so many expletives!

    So much gets lost in a sea of expletives.

    I like the optimism of Rev Bill Munday trying to raise the debate!

    We are lucky here to have such articulate contributors.

    Regards

    Charlie

    Yes, Charlie, we are very lucky and I’m very grateful.

  6. Kirsten
    September 2, 2012 at 5:49 pm | #6

    Petofi: ” They’ve gone gung-ho into the unchartered waters of Orban’s plans.”

    These waters were not unchartered. He made no secret of the direction of his plans, and neither of his willingness to use Jobbik for his objectives. Why it had been impossible to create a strong centre party after 1990 (so that the choice is not ex-Communists or nationalists), has not been explained to me. I heard only explanations such as SzDSz was a party of Jews etc., which is a type of explanation that I consider to reflect the main problem of Hungary (too many political ideas of very dubious value too broadly distributed). It is not that people were subjected to specifically vile politicians without ever having had the chance to have it otherwise.

  7. Petofi1
    September 2, 2012 at 6:25 pm | #7

    Kirsten: “..too many political ideas..”

    I guess you’re not Hungarian, Kirsten, or you’d know that thieving and lying for the Hungarian
    is second only to getting one over on someone–no greater pleasure than to make a fool
    of another person. For some reason, the frail Hungarian psyche requires that others be
    made to appear inferior.

  8. Not Buying It
    September 2, 2012 at 6:46 pm | #8

    Everybody is talking about Lockerbie being similar and different, but the interesting thing is that, less than a year and half after al-Megrahi was sent back to Libya by Scotland, the US and the UK helped to bring down the Libyan government, and Qaddafi was murdered. Will Armenia foment and assist a rebel movement to bring down Fidesz?

  9. Not Buying It
    September 2, 2012 at 6:48 pm | #9

    Also, Eva, your link for Dumneazu is incorrect.

  10. September 2, 2012 at 6:50 pm | #10

    “Will Armenia foment and assist a rebel movement to bring down Fidesz?”

    What a fantastic idea! It’s never going to happen, but oh how I wish it would.

  11. Dubious
    September 2, 2012 at 8:06 pm | #11

    Petofi1 :
    Kirsten: “..too many political ideas..”
    I guess you’re not Hungarian, Kirsten, or you’d know that thieving and lying for the Hungarian
    is second only to getting one over on someone–no greater pleasure than to make a fool
    of another person. For some reason, the frail Hungarian psyche requires that others be
    made to appear inferior.

    Can we please stop with the blanket statements about Hungarian or any other nationalities. Some may hold to the views you ascribe to them, but many, many, many do not.

    And, I find it unhelpful to encourage those Hungarians who keep on explaining away things because Hungarians are different, or Hungarians are special. It’s unhelpful.

  12. Pete H.
    September 2, 2012 at 11:20 pm | #12

    Dubious :

    Petofi1 :

    Kirsten: “..too many political ideas..”
    I guess you’re not Hungarian, Kirsten, or you’d know that thieving and lying for the Hungarian
    is second only to getting one over on someone–no greater pleasure than to make a fool
    of another person. For some reason, the frail Hungarian psyche requires that others be
    made to appear inferior.

    Can we please stop with the blanket statements about Hungarian or any other nationalities. Some may hold to the views you ascribe to them, but many, many, many do not.
    And, I find it unhelpful to encourage those Hungarians who keep on explaining away things because Hungarians are different, or Hungarians are special. It’s unhelpful.

    Agreed. No better than the nonsense posted by Magyar and his like at Politics.hu.

  13. Kirsten
    September 3, 2012 at 2:17 am | #13

    Dubious: “keep on explaining away things because Hungarians are different, or Hungarians are special. It’s unhelpful.”

    I agree.
    And also, Petöfi, if matters were truly as lost as described by you, I wonder why you suggested that one person (Bajnai) could improve the situation within a year’s time…

  14. Wondercat
    September 3, 2012 at 2:23 am | #14

    CharlieH :
    London Calling!
    Goodness Wolfi! – such hatred; such rhetoric; and so many expletives!
    So much gets lost in a sea of expletives.
    I like the optimism of Rev Bill Munday trying to raise the debate!
    We are lucky here to have such articulate contributors.
    Regards
    Charlie

    Not luck, Charile. Prof Balogh monitors, admonishes, and when necessary excludes. http://www.politics.hu is an open forum, and is correspondingly of little value. Prof Balogh, thank you for ensuring that HUNGARIAN SPECTRUM remains civil.

  15. September 3, 2012 at 6:50 am | #15

    Petofi1 :

    Kirsten: “..too many political ideas..”

    I guess you’re not Hungarian, Kirsten, or you’d know that thieving and lying for the Hungarian
    is second only to getting one over on someone–no greater pleasure than to make a fool
    of another person. For some reason, the frail Hungarian psyche requires that others be
    made to appear inferior.

    This is a far too sweeping generalization. But one thing is sure, business ethics is not a strength in today’s Hungary. There was far too much stealing during the Kádár era. People got used to it.

    As far as this “bunch” is concerned, they are really terribly corrupt.

  16. September 3, 2012 at 7:12 am | #16

    Not Buying It :

    Also, Eva, your link for Dumneazu is incorrect.

    Thank you, I noticed the other day but didn’t get around to fixing it. I will today.

  17. September 3, 2012 at 7:23 am | #17

    Wondercat :

    CharlieH :
    London Calling!
    Goodness Wolfi! – such hatred; such rhetoric; and so many expletives!
    So much gets lost in a sea of expletives.
    I like the optimism of Rev Bill Munday trying to raise the debate!
    We are lucky here to have such articulate contributors.
    Regards
    Charlie

    Not luck, Charile. Prof Balogh monitors, admonishes, and when necessary excludes. http://www.politics.hu is an open forum, and is correspondingly of little value. Prof Balogh, thank you for ensuring that HUNGARIAN SPECTRUM remains civil.

    Actually it is mostly admonishing. You can all see when I express dissatisfaction with some comments. It happens rarely. But in five years I actually refused to publish somebody’s writings only once. And I never edit comments although it can be done in WordPress.

  18. September 3, 2012 at 2:42 pm | #18

    Again, contrary to what I posted, I was accused of “pro-murderer’ and pro-Orban bias, while truth is that I have not even mentioned the current case.
    In my opinion the consequences of the release both in Armenia and Azerbaijan could have been predicted.

    Well, I will not start at the beginning of Armenian history, only the part that immediately preceded WWI.

    Russia had two manias in the early 1900s, gaining the Bosporus straights from Turkey and becoming the dominant power in the Balkans. As a Fifth column he used “Christian” Serbs in the Balkans and Armenians inside Turkey..

    A 1910 A Russian General Staff memo outlines a plan for seizing Constantinople, first the rail and telegraph lines to Ankara and Adrianople would be cut by “agents from the Christian population”, whereupon Russia friendly Christians in the city would burn down all the wooden bridges spanning the Golden Horn and set fire to Stambul”. The Christians of Pera then would rise, in coordination with Russian amphibious landings.

    The recently available Russian archives (RGVIA) also have numerous interesting documents and data regarding the Russian – Armenian cooperation PRIOR to Turkey’s entry into WWI. Interestingly the Russian were first betting on two folks who were enemies of each other the Kurds, who were happily trying to massacre Armenians and the Armenians themselves, until finally emphasizing the Armenian connection.
    At that time there were already armed Armenian guerillas the Dashnaks (a left leaning crowd) and Hunchaks in the Ottoman Empire. Some of these were also endeavoring to topple the Tsarist regime, but later assisted the Russians in the anti-Turkish activities. The fighting related to the primarily Kurdish “ Hamidiye military police and the armed Armenian bands,. At that time Russia was still financing and arming both the Armenians and the Kurdish (mostly nomadic) tribes.
    The Russian vice consul Olferiev reports from Van “ Van had turned into armed camp” and a “complete Russophile in the vilayet”

    In Aug 1914 general Yudenitch Chief of staff of the Caucasian Armies is requesting an additional 25,000 small arms for distribution among the Armenian guerillas. Inside Turkey (prior to any war between Turkey and Russia!). The Russian command (Sazanov) gave instructions that the Armenian uprising should start when the Russian troops are in action nearby. However Russian troops never made it far into Turkey and in spite of that the Armenians rebelled. In the 4 weeks of occupation of Van the Armenian rebels expected Russian help “any day now” The city fell to the Turks, but it was finally taken by the Russians, but unable to hold it withdraw, with dire consequences for the Armenians. The Van event was repeated in many locations in Turkey at the end with similar consequences. While this was going on in Turkey, inside Russia there were equally monstrous massacres of Mohammedans regardless of national aspirations..

    The Armenian history can not be considered without the recently opened Russian archives.

  19. September 3, 2012 at 3:05 pm | #19

    Louis Kovach :
    Again, contrary to what I posted, I was accused of “pro-murderer’ and pro-Orban bias, while truth is that I have not even mentioned the current case.
    In my opinion the consequences of the release both in Armenia and Azerbaijan could have been predicted.
    Well, I will not start at the beginning of Armenian history, only the part that immediately preceded WWI.
    Russia had two manias in the early 1900s, gaining the Bosporus straights from Turkey and becoming the dominant power in the Balkans. As a Fifth column he used “Christian” Serbs in the Balkans and Armenians inside Turkey..
    A 1910 A Russian General Staff memo outlines a plan for seizing Constantinople, first the rail and telegraph lines to Ankara and Adrianople would be cut by “agents from the Christian population”, whereupon Russia friendly Christians in the city would burn down all the wooden bridges spanning the Golden Horn and set fire to Stambul”. The Christians of Pera then would rise, in coordination with Russian amphibious landings.
    The recently available Russian archives (RGVIA) also have numerous interesting documents and data regarding the Russian – Armenian cooperation PRIOR to Turkey’s entry into WWI. Interestingly the Russian were first betting on two folks who were enemies of each other the Kurds, who were happily trying to massacre Armenians and the Armenians themselves, until finally emphasizing the Armenian connection.
    At that time there were already armed Armenian guerillas the Dashnaks (a left leaning crowd) and Hunchaks in the Ottoman Empire. Some of these were also endeavoring to topple the Tsarist regime, but later assisted the Russians in the anti-Turkish activities. The fighting related to the primarily Kurdish “ Hamidiye military police and the armed Armenian bands,. At that time Russia was still financing and arming both the Armenians and the Kurdish (mostly nomadic) tribes.
    The Russian vice consul Olferiev reports from Van “ Van had turned into armed camp” and a “complete Russophile in the vilayet”
    In Aug 1914 general Yudenitch Chief of staff of the Caucasian Armies is requesting an additional 25,000 small arms for distribution among the Armenian guerillas. Inside Turkey (prior to any war between Turkey and Russia!). The Russian command (Sazanov) gave instructions that the Armenian uprising should start when the Russian troops are in action nearby. However Russian troops never made it far into Turkey and in spite of that the Armenians rebelled. In the 4 weeks of occupation of Van the Armenian rebels expected Russian help “any day now” The city fell to the Turks, but it was finally taken by the Russians, but unable to hold it withdraw, with dire consequences for the Armenians. The Van event was repeated in many locations in Turkey at the end with similar consequences. While this was going on in Turkey, inside Russia there were equally monstrous massacres of Mohammedans regardless of national aspirations..
    The Armenian history can not be considered without the recently opened Russian archives.

    You can see why Éva doesn’t want to edit posts!

  20. September 3, 2012 at 3:20 pm | #20

    Kovach, WHO CARES about the history of the two countries in this context? (Apparently you do.) Can you understand what happened. On a foreign soil (that happened to be Hungary) in a friendly training a soldier in training became an axe murderer axed to death an other soldier who was sleeping. It is wrong to kill someone in a peaceful country under peaceful circumstances. The murderer done this as a hate crime. He was arrested and put the jail in Hungary. The Hungarian government knew darn well that would happen if they release this monster, but money talks, so Orban sold the pride, the respect, and the morals of his country. The problem is simply that simple, and we do not need your know it all history lesson that we can all look up on the Internet if we wish. These soldier had NOTHING to do with the conflict of the two countries. The murderer made a decision to murder an innocent man. Let’s make it even more simple for you, a Serbian man happens to go to Austria and kills a man from Kosovo. He gets a life sentence but at the same time in Serbia they celebrate him as a hero, then they offer a few billion dollars to Austria for his release. Austria releases him, and surprise he becomes a national hero in Serbia. Do you get it, or do you need more explanation?

  21. September 3, 2012 at 3:31 pm | #21

    Thanks Kovach. A+. You can sit down now.

    Actually if your are still on-line … what’s this got to do with money hungry, immoral actions of the FIDESZ government? Where do you stand?

  22. September 4, 2012 at 5:20 am | #22

    I am Azeri, what are you doing ? dont intervene us !

  23. November 2, 2012 at 1:22 am | #23

    Hello there, You’ve performed a great job. I will certainly digg it and for my part suggest to my friends. I am confident they will be benefited from this site.

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