NATO chief concerned over pardoning of Azeri officer
YEREVAN - Agence France-Presse
Armenian President Sargsyan (R) and NATO chief Rasmussen take part in a press conference in Yerevan. More than a thousand young Armenians demonstrated outside the university where Rasmussen was speaking during his visit. AFP photoNATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said yesterday he was “deeply concerned” about the pardoning of an Azerbaijani soldier who axed an Armenian officer to death during a NATO training course.
“The act he committed in 2004 was a terrible crime and should not be glorified,” Rasmussen said in a speech at Yerevan State University during a visit to Armenia.
Azerbaijani lieutenant Ramil Safarov was extradited to Baku last week from Hungary, where he had been serving a life sentence for hacking the Armenian officer to death. Safarov was immediately pardoned and promoted to the rank of major after returning home to a hero’s welcome, in defiance of assurances from Baku to Budapest that he would serve out his term in Azerbaijan.
Praise to Georgia
The issue has inflamed tensions between ex-Soviet foes Armenia and Azerbaijan which are locked in an unresolved conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh where they fought a war in the 1990s.
“The pardon damages trust and doesn’t contribute to the peace process,” Rasmussen said. “Tensions must be reduced and concrete steps must be taken to promote regional cooperation and reconciliation,” Rasmussen said he would convey the same message to Azerbaijan when he visits Baku today. Before visiting Baku, NATO chief went to Georgia and praised the country for its strong commitment to NATO and to democratic reforms. More than a thousand young Armenians demonstrated outside the university where Rasmussen was speaking, chanting “Shame! and “We demand justice!”
At a press conference with Rasmussen, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan said that “making a hero out of a criminal is unacceptable.”
“Azerbaijan’s shameful act seriously endangers the security of the entire south Caucasus,” he said.