BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
Hungary’s extradition of Ramil Safarov to Azerbaijan and Baku’s subsequent pardon and glorification of the axe murderer has raised serious questions of international law, diplomacy and a state’s ethical responsibility within the international community.
We have spoken at length about the international community’s tepid reaction to the incident, which mainly has been to express “concern” and warnings of the consequences of instability in the region. US, NATO and European leaders have pledged to press Azerbaijan about the matter and have gone out of their way to let Hungary off the hook.
Three weeks after this maelstrom erupted, there has been no tangible change in the matter, save for the European Parliament resolution, which condemned Azerbaijan for glorifying a convicted killer.
Official Yerevan’s reaction has also been reserved. After the extradition, Armenia suspended ties with Hungary and subsequently went on record about its disappointment with the international community’s lukewarm response to the matter.
Armenia’s Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian, during a press conference last week continued to use his tried and true line that the international community is in agreement with Armenia on the Safarov matter, which calls into question his complete comprehension of the events and the subsequent reactions.
The other elephant in the room is whether Yerevan could have stopped the entire extradition process and if so, why did it not.
The Armenian community of Hungary sounded the alarm about Safarov’s extradition two weeks prior to the incident, and reportedly a representative flew to Yerevan to address the issue with the Foreign Ministry and the Diaspora Ministry. The Hungarian-Armenian community asserts that they were given the runaround by secondary and tertiary officials at the ministries.
Nalbandian said that Yerevan pressed Budapest as early as mid-August regarding this matter, arguing that for years Armenia has warned the international community, but has adhered to calls by the West to not politicize the matter. This has resulted in a he-said-she-said scenario with no concrete answers three weeks after the fact.
Let’s take the fait-a-complis scenario and assume that Armenia was truly caught off guard by Budapest. The diplomacy doesn’t match the deception.
The Safarov incident, with all its international ramifications, provides Armenia with a golden opportunity to set a new course for its foreign policy and emerge from the Nalbandianist approach of playing the star-struck victim in dealing with the US and the international community. Azeri President Ilham Aliyev’s pardon of Safarov crystallizes the reality that Azerbaijan is not “partner for peace” but rather the instigator of post-Soviet unrest in the region—a country that has committed state-sponsored pogroms, instigated a war and has no regard for human decency.
The US Embassy in Armenia was among the first seven countries to be put on alert following last week’s anti-Muslim uprising in Benghazi and Cairo. When the State Department was pressed about its reasoning, the response was that Armenia and the others were the first to publicize the warnings, which allegedly were given to some 50 embassies around the world. We have yet to see an announcement from the US Embassy in Azerbaijan where not one but two anti-American protests have been held in the last week.
Armenia’s Foreign Ministry was silent on the matter and has yet to protest or inquire about why Armenia was singled out. Are we taking the State Department’s shameful excuse at face value? Don’t the people of Armenia deserve a more plausible explanation as to why their country is one of the first to be placed on alert?
Nalbandian will be traveling to the US over the weekend. His first stop, which is strangely being billed as a “surprise visit” will be Los Angeles, where he will be addressing the World Affairs Council on Monday. He will then travel to New York to address the United National General Assembly.
Nalbandian will have a captivating audience of world leaders and must utilize that pulpit to reset the course for Armenia’s foreign policy to reflect the realities on the ground. For the past three and a half years, Armenia’s foreign policy agenda has not been set by Yerevan, but rather Washington, Moscow and elsewhere. The events of last year have proven that our nation’s foreign policy MUST BE DETERMINED in Yerevan and must reflect the national aspiration of the Armenian people.
Nalbandian should press the US, whose top diplomat Hillary Clinton pledged to ask “tough questions” from Baku when the latter attacked Armenia on the day of her visit to Yerevan in June. Nalbandian must call out NATO member-states for their passiveness toward Hungary, which set in motion the events of the past three weeks. And, finally, Nalbandian must, once and for all, end Baku’s insistence of focusing of the nebulous issue of “territorial integrity” in the talks and assert that Karabakh’s right to self-determination is of utmost importance to the fruition of our national liberation struggle.
This year’s UN General Assembly is a make or break moment for Armenia. Past experience makes us doubt Armenia’s willingness to assert itself in the community of nations. Let’s hope we are proven otherwise.