Saturday

15th Dec 2018

Axe murder complicates EU-Azerbaijan love affair

EU countries have criticised "strategic partner" Azerbaijan for making a national hero out of an axe-murderer.

On 19 February 2004 during a Nato seminar at a military school in Budapest, he walked into the bedroom of a sleeping Armenian soldier, hit him 16 times with an axe and partly decapitated his dead body.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

On 31 August this year, Hungary put Azerbaijani lieutenant Ramil Safarov on a plane to Baku where President Ilham Aliyev pardoned him, promoted him to the rank of major and gave him eight years of back pay.

Speaking in the context of a 20-year-long ethnic conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, a senior Azerbaijani official the same day told state media that Safarov had "defended his country's honour and dignity" in butchering the 25-year-old victim.

The official added that Aliyev clinched the deal personally with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Baku in July, fuelling speculation - and denials - in Hungary that Orban extradited Safarov in return for a promise that Azerbaijan will buy Hungarian bonds.

The EU on Monday (3 September) joined Russia and the US in criticising Aliyev's behaviour.

Its foreign relations spokeswoman, Maja Kocjanic, told press in Brussels: "We are particularly concerned with the impact the developments might have on the wider region."

She later told EUobserver that the EU foreign service is drafting a written statement and that EU foreign ministers might discuss the subject at their next meeting, due in Cyprus on Friday.

Russia's foreign minister earlier on Monday said he is "deeply concerned" and that the actions "run counter" to peace efforts.

The White House back on 31 August said it had conveyed its "disappointment" to Aliyev.

Meanwhile, Hungary has been the most energetic in condemning the affair.

It summoned Azerbaijan's ambassador for an official telling-off in the Hungarian capital and it leaked a letter from the Azerbaijani ministry of justice promising that Safarov would stay in jail. Hungarian spin also includes saying that it is no worse than the UK, which sent Lockerbie plane bomber Abdelbaset Megrahi back to Libya in 2009.

Nobody in Armenia, at the least, believes Hungary, however.

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan last week severed diplomatic ties with the EU country and said it had broken promises made "just a few days ago" that the axe-killer would stay in place. "There are no doubts they were well informed about what was going to happen [with Safarov's pardon]," an Armenian diplomat told this website.

The developments are unwelcome for all parties involved.

Hungary was already trying to improve its image as one of the sick men of Europe after Orban's recent attempt to gain political control of the central bank, courts and media.

The EU and Russia's mild rebukes come amid their competing efforts to get Azerbaijani gas flowing into EU-bound or Russia-bound pipelines in the next few years.

The US rebuke comes amid its aim to use Azerbaijan to help withdraw its soldiers from Afghanistan in 2014.

EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy went to Baku and shook hands with Aliyev in July. But Van Rompuy had nothing to say on the subject on Monday. EU energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger visited Baku this weekend, but also said nothing.

"This actually embarasses countries which are engaged with Azerbaijan and makes it harder for the West to look the other way. It's [glorification of Safarov] is so over the top, it actually reminds me of North Korea and Turkmenistan under [former leader] Turkmenbashi," Richard Giragosian, a Yerevan-based analyst who used to advise the Pentagon and the CIA, told this website.

"Even [Azerbaijan's main ally] Turkey is embarassed and put off," he added.

Opinion

Ill winds blow for Viktor the troublemaker

Shaken by its poor economy and angry at the EU's criticism of Viktor Orban's controversial reforms, Hungary has been chatting up non-democratic states that demonstrate an openness for investment and financial aid.

Opinion

Nagorno-Karabakh: on the knife's edge

The Safarov affair has made life harder for NGOs trying to promote toleration in South Caucasus, while a secretive and elite-driven peace process is doing little to help.

Azerbaijan dangles EU gas bonanza

Azerbaijan says it might sell up to 50 billion cubic metres of gas a year to the EU in future. But it wants more than just money in return.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders endorse creation of eurozone budget
  2. Selmayr has no comment on MEPs' call to resign
  3. May had 'robust' discussion with Juncker
  4. UK to continue talks on EU 'assurances'
  5. EU invests €20m in AI software for self-driving cars
  6. Belgian PM 'not optimistic', urges 'no deal' Brexit preparedness
  7. Romanian president expects no Brexit summit in January
  8. Swedish MPs reject Lofven to lead new government

Opinion

The Azov crisis will backfire

Vladimir Putin's nightmare of Petro Poroshenko's re-election will be even certain as Ukrainians rally around the flag. Next March's election is not just to elect a new president but also a commander-in-chief to deal with five more years of Putin.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. No more Brexit talks, despite May's pleas
  2. EU leaders stuck on asylum reform
  3. Orban and other PMs spread fake news, says Juncker
  4. Fishing quota and no-deal Brexit preparation This WEEK
  5. Kosovo has right to own army, Germany and US say
  6. EU needs election-meddling stress tests
  7. Russian and US obstruction was 'insult' to climate scientists
  8. EU-27 unimpressed by May, offer little on Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us