On 9 February 2004 Ramil Safarov delivered sixteen blows to the face of Gurgen Margaryan, an Armenian officer, with whom he attended the English course within NATO’s Partnership For Peace program, hosted by the Hungarian capital. During the proceedings Safarov claimed that the victim had insulted the Azerbaijani armed forces, as well as the national flag.
The killer, however, was issued pardon by the president of his country and became a national hero. Safarov was provided with a flat and promoted to the rank of Major; he also received salary for the eight years of “service” at Hungarian prison.
All this may lead to a new war between Azerbaijan and Armenia, being already more than twenty years in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The return to war is likely to involve many other countries in the conflict. Thomas de Waal, an expert of the Caucasus Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that the world’s energy markets would lose their balance, because Caspian oil and gas pass through Azerbaijan. He also noted that the situation is heating up with every passing day and now “closer to war than to peace”.
Sabine Frazier, the International Crisis Group’s Europe Program Director said: “World powers have noted that Azerbaijan’s actions could worsen the situation and lead to conflict. The positions of the U.S., Russia and several European countries are similar in this respect. Something must be done to stop the process of deterioration. Since 2011, the situation has become much worse. Azerbaijan is clearly preparing for war, and a considerable sum of profits, which is brought by oil, is being invested into the army. The decision to pardon the murderer may cause a violent reaction”.
Armenian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Zohrab Mnatsakanyan agrees with Freizer: “Safarov becoming a hero in Azerbaijan is a blow to the conscience of Europe, to the civilized world”.
In turn Budapest claims that it followed all the international rules and norms on extradition of convicts, no violation occurred. Hungary “does not expect” that the killer would be pardoned. The Azerbaijani Justice Ministry assured Hungarian authorities that Safarov would not be released for at least the following 25 years. In response, Armenia froze all diplomatic relations with Hungary.