YEREVAN—President Serzh Sarkisian suspended all relations with Hungary Friday in the aftermath of that country’s decision to covertly extradite an Azeri officer who brutally murdered an Armenian soldier in 2004 during a joint NATO military retreat, reported the presidential press service.
After meeting with Armenia’s National Security Council, Sarkisian convened a meeting of the foreign diplomatic corps to convey Armenia’s anger and its decision to immediately suspend relations with Hungary.
Lt. Ramil Safarov sentenced to life in prison in Hungary for hacking to death Armenian officer, Lt. Gurgen Markarian, was sent back to Azerbaijan Friday and, despite assurances, was immediately pardoned and freed by Azeri President Ilham Aliyev.
Safarov was given a life sentence in 2006 by the Budapest City Court after he confessed to killing Markarian while both were in Hungary for a 2004 NATO language course.
Hungary returned the 35-year-old Safarov to Azerbaijan only after receiving assurances from the Azerbaijani Justice Ministry that Safarov’s sentence, which included the possibility of parole after 25 years, would be enforced.
In very terse remarks, Sarkisian condemned Hungary for the transfer and also criticized the international community for not responding to apparent warnings by Armenia, which adhered to international calls to not politicize the case.
In an earlier meeting with Armenia’s National Security Council, Sarkisian announced that he has instructed the defense ministry to place all troops on high alert and urged the National Assembly to convene an emergency session. He also announced that he has a “special assignment” for the head of Armenia’s National Security Service Gorik Hakpyan.
Below is the text of Sarkisian’s remarks to diplomats as presented by the presidential office without edits:
Unfortunately today we invited you to the President’s Office on an extraordinary occasion. As you should know, an officer of the Azeri military who had killed Armenian officer Gurgen Margaryan, was transferred to Azerbaijan. The President of Azerbaijan – and we have been warning about it – has immediately granted pardon to him.
This has happened because the Government of Hungary, a member State of the European Union and NATO, has made a deal with the authorities of Azerbaijan.
I do not want to revisit the circumstances of the murder of Gurgen Margaryan; you are very well aware of them. As the trial had demonstrated, the horrendous manslaughter took place only because Gurgen Margaryan was an Armenian.
Immediately after this crime had been perpetrated the Hungarian authorities as well as our partners – EU and NATO member States, were continually urging us to refrain from politicizing that process. We were continually urged to trust the judiciary of Hungary, a member State to those important alliances.
We have been closely following all the developments around that criminal. This issue has been discussed during each and every meeting with the President, Speaker of the Parliament, Foreign Minister and Ambassador of Hungary, and we have been assured on numerous occasions that such a transfer or a return of a criminal to Azerbaijan was excluded. We have received that same response to our requests during our contacts just a few days ago with the representatives of the Hungarian Foreign Ministry and Parliament. But as a result of perfidious developments the murderer has turned up in Baku and got released.
I have nothing to say about Azerbaijan – just plainly nothing. That country speaks about itself with the actions it takes, and I am not the one to explain those steps.
Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen:
With their joint actions the authorities of Hungary and Azerbaijan have opened the door for the recurrence of such crimes. With this decision they convey a clear message to the butchers. The slaughterers hereafter are well aware of impunity they can enjoy for the murder driven by ethnic or religious hatred.
I CAN NOT TOLERATE THAT.
THE REPUBLIC OF ARMENIA CAN NOT TOLERATE THAT.
THE ARMENIAN NATION WILL NEVER FORGIVE THAT.
I officially announce that as of today we suspend diplomatic relations and all official contacts with Hungary.
We expect a precise and unambiguous response by all our partners with regard to this incident.
Anyone who tolerates this, will tomorrow be held responsible to history.
Half-measures and circumlocution are not acceptable.
We will judge the attitude of our partners towards the security of the Armenian nation by their response to this incident.
I request you urgently to convey this as my personal message to the Heads of your States and Governments.
That is all I wanted to say. I do not know if Q&A will make sense or not? I think it won’t since what happened can hardly be accommodated by a reasonable mind. A country that considers itself developed and civilized does not have the right to behave this way and it well deserves proper assessment by its partners.