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EU Suggests Azerbaijan Broke Pledges, Pardon 'Endangers' Region


Azerbaijani military officer Ramil Safarov walks on Martyrs' Alley, a national memorial in the Azerbaijani capital, Baku, on August 31.
Azerbaijani military officer Ramil Safarov walks on Martyrs' Alley, a national memorial in the Azerbaijani capital, Baku, on August 31.
A spokeswoman for the European Union's foreign policy chief says Azerbaijan appears to have abandoned pledges it made to EU member Hungary ahead of the handover and subsequent pardon of an army man serving a life sentence for murdering a fellow NATO trainee from Armenia.

A spokeswoman for High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, Maja Kocijancic, also told RFE/RL's Brussels correspondent that Baku's actions threaten "fragile" stability in the region.

She said the bloc was asking Baku to explain its freeing of Ramil Safarov, who confessed to having killed Armenian officer Gurgen Margarian with an ax in 2004 after Margarian allegedly "insulted" Azerbaijan.

"According to what we know now, on the basis of the information gathered, it would appear that certain conditions and commitments that were agreed between Hungary and Azerbaijan on the transfer of Ramil Safarov have not been met," Kocijancic said, "and in that respect we will continue or we will try to be in touch with the Azeri side to hear the explanation why this has happened and why the behavior that is endangering the fragile situation the region is continuing."

European Parliament speaker Martin Schulz on September 4 condemned Baku's actions.*

Safarov received a pardon from President Ilham Aliyev immediately after his return to Azerbaijan on August 31 and was given a military promotion the next day, infuriating Armenia and eliciting U.S. "concern."

Armenia has suspended diplomatic and other ties with Hungary as a result of the repatriation.

Officials in Budapest insist they received certain guarantees from their Azerbaijani counterparts, and claim they acted under international law.

WATCH: Thousands in Budapest protest Safarov's release
Thousands Of Hungarians Protest Safarov Release
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Hungarians have also expressed anger at Prime Minister Viktor Orban's (Fidesz) government, with nearly 2,000 people protesting in the capital over Safarov's extradition.

The co-chairs of the Minsk Group with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) announced on September 3 that they had met separately with the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan to discuss Safarov's pardon.

RFE/RL's Brussels correspondent says EU foreign ministers could discuss the issue when they gather for an informal meeting on Cyprus on September 7.

*CORRECTION: This story has been amended from its original version, which included information from AFP suggesting that EU President Herman van Rompuy had condemned the pardon. EU officials informed our Brussels correspondent that that is not the case and that van Rompuy has made no such statements.

Based on reporting by RFE/RL Brussels correspondent Rikard Jozwiak and additional reporting by AFP and Reuters
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