NATO chief praises defiant Baku
Azerbaijan’s Aliyev (L) meets NATO chief Rasmussen amid ongoing tension. REUTERS PhotoNATO chief has praised oil-rich Azerbaijan for its closer security cooperation with the alliance amid heightened regional tensions due to the pardoning of an Azeri officer who murdered an Armenian counterpart.
“Our ties are developing steadily and positively,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen said after talks with Azeri President İlham Alyiev on Sept. 7.
The secretary general said Azerbaijan was a “valuable partner for NATO,” adding that both sides had “an opportunity to build a solid, long-term partnership.”
Rasmussen thanked Azerbaijan for its participation in the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan and conveyed the alliance’s appreciation for the country’s additional support given to NATO operations via over-flight rights and transit lines.
But Aliyev remained defiant over Rasmussen’s criticism of the pardoning of an Azeri officer who axed to death an Armenian serviceman in 2004 during a NATO training seminar in Budapest. “Armenia is unjustifiably kicking up a fuss over Ramil Safarov’s pardoning,” Aliyev said, arguing that the process was legal and fair.
‘In line with convention’
“Safarov was extradited in conformity with the European Convention [on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons] and his pardoning is based on Azerbaijani legislation,” Agence France-Presse quoted him as saying.
Reiterating his concerns over the incident, the NATO chief said, “The act he committed in 2004 was a crime that should not be glorified, as this damages trust and does not contribute to the peace process.” Rasmussen made the same statement in the Armenian capital Yerevan on Sept. 6, where public outrage over the case has sparked large protests.
Touching on the tensions between Baku and Yerevan, Rasmussen said: “Two things are clear. First, that there is no military solution. Second, the only way forward is through dialogue, compromise and cooperation.” Yerevan has broken off diplomatic links with Budapest, which had been assured by Baku that the killer would serve out his prison term in Azerbaijan.
Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan said Sept. 6 that “making a hero out of a criminal is unacceptable” and accused Azerbaijan of endangering the fragile peace.