Conflict with Armenia: To Date, The Greatest Diplomatic Success of the Orbán Government

For a list of updates to this story, see next post.

The Hungarian consulate in Yerevan was attacked with tomatoes yesterday and the Hungarian flag was torn off of the building in protest of the extradition of an Azerbaijani citizen convicted of killing an Armenian soldier in Hungary.

A short video of the protest outside the Hungarian consulate of Armenia has been posted on YouTube. On the same day, Armenia cut all diplomatic and official ties with Hungary and raised the level of preparedness for its armed forces. “The Armenian people are not going to forgive this,” stated the Armenian president, Serzh Sargsyan to diplomatic delegates in the country who were called together for the special announcement condemning Hungary’s release of the convicted criminal.

The victim of the crime, an Armenian soldier named Gurgen Margaryan was killed in 2004 during his sleep in a Budapest dormitory after the Azerbaijani Ramil Sahib Safarov had smashed his skull with an axe. The two stayed in Hungary for an English course sponsored by the NATO’s Partnership for Peace program. Safarov claimed a national offense was committed by Margaryan before his death – no one else witnessed such an offense – but received 30 years in prison in Hungary regardless of this supposed attenuating circumstance.

In 2005, Safarov was awarded the “Man of the Year 2005” by the National Democratic Party of Azerbaijan for his deed. An English-language website dedicated to him is testimony to the pressure applied by the Azerbaijani propaganda machine to the effort of freeing him. Throughout his imprisonment in Hungary, the convict held in Hungary had remained in the national awareness of his home country.

Safarov’s extradition came as part of the Orbán government’s novel approach to foreign policy and to financing its economy. Upon being found pariahs in the Western political community, and having loudly protested against the constraints imposed by organizations like the European Union or the IMF on the political and economic decision-making of the government (“Brussels is like Moscow”), Viktor Orbán proudly declared a newly-crafted backup plan called “The Eastern Opening.”

Featuring high among the aims of this program was to bring in money for financing the debt of the Hungarian state. But some of the money appears to have come with strings attached. The Azerbaijani government ostensibly agreed to buy somewhere between 2 to 3 billion euros worth of Hungarian state-issued bonds. The deal coincided so closely with the extradition of the Azerbaijani axe murderer that, combined with the obvious naivite of the legal explanation of Safarov’s transfer, the Armenians claim that it was head-money paid to buy the freedom of the Azerbaijani criminal.

What is known with certainty is that Safarov’s release to the Azerbaijanis was approved at the highest levels: by no other than Viktor Orbán himself. This was stated by the head of Azerbaijani foreign relations, Novruz Mammadov, who told reporters that the agreement over the extradition deal was reached during a meeting held between President Aliyev and the Hungarian prime minister during the latter’s visit to Baku.

Armenians have since targeted the prime minister’s Facebook page, and reportedly a small group of protesters gathered outside of the Hungarian embassy last night in Washington. “Be careful about going to Hungary, you might get bludgeoned with an axe,” Armenians warn each other in mockery of the affair.

But it would not be proper to make light of the controversy: according to the latest reports (Sept 1, p.m.) by the Azerbaijani press, shots were being fired at the Azeri-Armenian border.

Officially, Safarov had been transferred to Baku on the basis of a 1983 Strasbourg treaty guaranteeing convicted prisoners the right to serve their punishment in their home country. Safarov was granted clemency on the day of his arrival, however, by Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev. Already on the same day, he was paraded around as a hero during celebrations hosted by the Azeri state. He was not only promoted to the rank of a major, the Azeri state also gave him a new apartment and 8 years’ worth of military salary to compensate for the years he spent in the Hungarian jail-cell.

Having been granted clemency after serving only eight years for murder, the “Azerbaijani axe murderer” lays a wrath on a monument for martyrs in Baku on August 31, 2012.

Perhaps not unexpectedly: the younger Aliyev’s human rights record and his ability to remain firm in his dictatorial powers while fueling ethnic tensions are often cited as reasons not to cultivate friendly diplomatic relations with the Azeri regime.

The Armenian reaction, Friday’s declaration that they are cutting all ties with Hungary over the freeing of Safarov, came as a shock to many Hungarians. Most Hungarians are unaware of the surviving tensions in the Caucasus region. For the Hungarian press, Safarov was only known as the “axe murderer” – that he committed his murder out of ethnic hate failed to invite the same attention as the gruesome details of his deed. Of course, more and more in Hungary are becoming insensitive to the problem: it might not be an overstatement that some in Hungary, and not only those in the country’s ultra-right movements, would even endorse Safarov’s militant nationalism.

The lack of perspective on the significance of the quid pro quo is also highly salient when comparing the reactions of the US Department of State to that of the Hungarian government. The former emphasizes the destabilizing effect of the Hungarian government’s decision to transfer Mr. Safarov for the region and condemns any action that fuels regional tensions. As far as the Hungarian government is concerned, they have willfully contributed to regional tensions over and over again during the last few months in their own geographic region. Likely from their perspective it would be more important to see the ethos of the Safarov transfer: that a poor government shunned by the regular creditors of the world had figured out a way find money in a place where lesser opportunists would never think to look.

It is unlikely, in their zeal to find unorthodox solutions to the country’s problems, that the Orbán government had any idea about the scope of the international difficulties in which they were about to land due to their dealings with the Azerbaijanis.

Or, at the very least, I would advise them to spin this embarrassing matter in this way. Perhaps they might see one of two other explanations more redeeming in their domestic communications with the government’s supporters, but these would sink the country’s reputation even further.

It would be wise not to press the money-finding angle any further: there is nothing glorious about exchanging a common criminal for billions of euros. Rather, this would only expose the Hungarian government’s utter contempt for basic principles of justice, an accusation they have fought off with zeal ever since coming to power in 2010. As far as the second possible explanation of their cooperation with the Azeri government is concerned – that they willfully supported the cause of a brutal murderer driven by nationalism and ethnic hatred – one only hopes that I am completely mistaken: that there are no parallels whatsoever between the Armenian-Azeri conflict and the relationships the Hungarian government intends to cultivate with neighboring countries.

Updates to this story since publication of this post on September 1 can be found in a separate post dedicated to the international and domestic repercussions of the Safarov extradition here:

This entry was posted in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Hungarian government, Hungary, international politics, Viktor Orbán and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Conflict with Armenia: To Date, The Greatest Diplomatic Success of the Orbán Government

  1. Wondercat says:

    What is a “national offence” of the sort that might extenuate axe murder? Thanks for explicating this.

  2. Pete H. says:

    I am not sure about the difference between a a treaty and a convention, but this prisoner transfer arrangement is covered by a convention.

    Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons
    Strasbourg, 21.III.1983

    It is also appears to be voluntary and not an obligation of the sentencing state.

    “Article 3 – Conditions for transfer
    1. A sentenced person may be transferred under this Convention only on the following conditions:
    a. if that person is a national of the administering State;
    b. if the judgment is final;
    c. if, at the time of receipt of the request for transfer, the sentenced person still has at least six d. months of the sentence to serve or if the sentence is indeterminate;
    d. if the transfer is consented to by the sentenced person or, where in view of his age or his physical or mental condition one of the two States considers it necessary, by the sentenced person’s legal representative;
    e. if the acts or omissions on account of which the sentence has been imposed constitute a criminal offence according to the law of the administering State or would constitute a criminal offence if committed on its territory; and
    f. if the sentencing and administering States* agree to the transfer.”

    * the state to which the prisoner will be transferred.

    Under 1. f. it seems that the Hungarian government could have decided not to transfer the prisoner. Given the knowledge that the prisoner was considered a hero in his home country, there was a high likelihood he would be pardoned. Also given the knowledge that a transfer could ignite international tensions in the region, the Hungarian government could have disagreed to make the transfer.

    A real blunder of a diplomatic move by the Fidesz run government. Yet again they manage to make Hungary look bad. So much for an end of the criticisms of the current government.

    Thank for your detailed post. And good to see that you are posting more frequently!

    • Anonymous says:

      Very interesting comment, thanks! Yet not sure that such a serious decision could be passed by one person, even though this person is the PM…

  3. Agasif says:

    Azerbaijani serviceman, Ramil Safarov, killied Armenian provocateur Gurgen Markarian as a result of “insulting Azerbaijan flag and japing over ethnic honor”.

    I think Magyar fellows can understand the moral importance of national flag among Turkic people, becuse we share the same Hunnic state culture.

    FLAG is our HONOR!!! Anybody tample our FLAG, must pay by the life!!!

    • Pete H. says:

      In the civilized world japing and tamping ethnic honor and flags is not punishable by death. And what are japing and tampling anyway?

      • Wondercat says:

        @Pete H.: Agasif is a philosopher, although a philosopher who can not spell “trampling” and who uses the obsolete term “jape” for “joke”. And what is a philosopher? Someone who values ideas and principles so highly that (s)he is ready to kill real, suffering, rejoicing, actual human beings for the sake of those ideas and principles. Or, a monster.

        “FLAG is our HONOR” indeed. The philosopher as ninny.

    • Ali Ahmad says:

      Agasif, how much did Azeri president Aliyev bribe you to write the above. One day, you might be Aliyev’s own enemy and he might send someone to kill you, because you have insulted him, by jumping on his picture…

    • Anonymous says:

      you are strongly misinformed, sorry for you!

    • 3rdMAS says:

      Great Way to protect a disgraceful and shameful murderer! that’s how you represent your nation….

    • falif says:

      Brutal little species…Those who represent and support the most blatant expressions of that brutality will bring consequences upon their children that their children do not deserve. Unfortunately within most regimes the proaganda machine educates those children to inherit the same twisted manipulations against fellow members of humanity that their misguided parents also were manipulated into. Almost always at the top of the social / political pyramid , the controllers have no interest in national identity or patriotism , but find that the manipulation towards chaos and violence of the populations they control ultimately serves to fill their own selfish pockets. Beating the war drum and breeding generations who hate , the world slips rapidly closer to an end for all of humanity. The primitive destroys the potential. Is this what we want ? Is this what we defend ? Is this what we hope for our children ?Take a moment to look in the eyes of those children. Is this smashing , burning screaming ugliness what you really want for them ?…brutal little species – WAKE UP

  4. Anonymous says:

    Agasif – your ” brave hero” axed a SLEEPING man…..

  5. So…. anyone can pick up an axe and murder anyone they find who insults a flag? 3/4 of the world would be dead…… What type of parents and teachers do these people have that slashing a sleeping man 16 times with an axe is considered justice for jokes and barbs?! Agasif, I shudder at the thought of what your wife and children have to endure!

    • Ali Ahmad says:

      Agassif has several axes, you need to watch, he may also have so many bodies (killed by axes) hidden in his basement.

    • Anonymous says:

      Who says that anyone can pick up a axe and murder anyone? Don’t you know that the Azeri was sentenced to 30 years in prison? The questions remain: 1: Why Hungary is blamed for Azeris violating the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons?
      2: Why the Aremenians did not burn the Azeri flag but the Hungarian? Wasn’t it the Azeris who freed the criminal? Armenia has proved to be a country of revenge hungry, angry and uncivilised people, not worthy of the West’s support.

      • Hungary knew Azerbaijan would release the criminal, and if it didn’t, that’s naivitee at it’s trusting a wolf in a sheep’s pen. Before you say anything else on the issue, let me point out that this lovely axe murderer had been proclaimed a hero from the day of his incarceration. This alone should signify that Azerbaijan had no intention of keeping the man incarcerated, especially since it’s state policy to instil hatred and a vengeful spirit in the youth of the country. It was a stab in the back by Hungary to do this, especially since there was that large amount of money transferred on the heels of the release.

        As for burning the flag, it was childish and idiotic at its best. Before you go on to classify my people as uncivilized or vengeance-hungry, I should point out that it was an extremely small percentage of about 50 people in a country of 3 million and in an overall population of 10 million. If less than 1% of a country are to be the model of a whole people, then we have a problem. That would mean no civilized individual exists in this world. If you must know, Azeri flags were burned as well, especially on that idiotic flag burning website. There’s MUCH that could be said about the uncivilized nature of the West, but that’s a different topic altogether. Please refrain from insulting a people thus when we are the ones who are victims here. It was our innocent soldier hacked 16 times to death. It was the Hungarian government that knowingly released the criminal into the warm bosom of his mother country.

      • Zara says:

        It was very interesting explanation of Armenians (learn to write correctly), and if the civilized people are those who kills at a neutral territory… so, we’re not one of them.

    • Newsreader says:

      Tamar Narjairna – You are wrong! Hungary did not know that Azerbaijan would free the axe murderer. On the contrary: diplomatic correspondence shows that the Baku government assured Budapest that he will serve at least 25 years sentence. So Hungary did nothing wrong. Why did the Armenians burn Hungary’s flag? This is a barbarian, brutal and uncivilsed act. Why didn’t they burn the Azeri flag? Are Armenians too coward for that? Armenia is getting more and more isolated, has no friends and now gained one more powerful enemy. It is very unlikely that Hungarians will support Yerevan if Azeris attack Nagorno Kharback. The west also condems uncivilised, bloodthirsty, revengeful countries such as Armenia. I am sorry that you are on your own.

      • Newsreader says:

        Armenia is not a victim here. Armenia is the agressor. I have little sympathy for flag burning, threatening, revengeful people. Nor has the west.

      • Zara says:

        It’s a fantastic opinion. Some kill sleeping people, telling that they were provoced (by the way, if someone is angry, he doesn ‘t go and buy an axe and cowardly wait for a good moment – he attack immediately), and they are peaceful, civilized, kind, nice and so on. Others are barbarian and evil. Also, who is powrful enemy? And why Hungary must become our enemy, not Azeri’s, as they assured Hungary that murderer will stay prisoned, and broke the agreement the same day. The civilized people, who kill sleeping, undefensive ones – it’s not a muslim behavior, muslims are brave. It is in character of two “gnreatest civilizations of our days” – you know, who I mean. Azeris have friends ONLY because of oil and money. And we always burn azeri flags – we are cowards only in your sweetest and most non-realistic dreams.

  6. Newsreader says:

    Can somebody explain why Hungary is blamed for Azeris violating the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons? And why the Aremenians did not burn the Azeri flag but the Hungarian? Wasn’t it the Azeris who freed the criminal? I see no connection between selling Hungarian state bonds and extraditing a prisoner after 8 years to its home country. This is different from the Lockerbie bomber’s release to Libiya that linked to surge in UK arms deal talks. Why was the West not raising concerns then?

    • Pete H. says:

      The west did raise concerns then. Your deflecting, it makes no difference what Scotland did. It does not excuse the Hungarian government’s behavior.

      • Anonymous says:

        No, this is different. Hungary acted in compliance with the requirements of international law on this issue. Azeris gave assurances for continued custody for the prisoner. So the questions remain:
        1: Why Hungary is blamed for Azeris violating the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons?
        2: Why the Aremenians did not burn the Azeri flag but the Hungarian? Wasn’t it the Azeris who freed the criminal?

      • Eva says:

        As far as civilized people are concerned there is no need to ‘excuse’ any act that was done in agreement with the law. Of course, barbarians throwing tomatoes with one hand and burning flags with another will be perplexed by this simple fact, but who’s going to be surprised at that?

    • Zara says:

      You don’t? Really? Is there no connection? Than why it was made in such a great hurry and secrecy? Don’t be funny.

      • Newsreader says:

        Zara – There was no hurry and there was no secrecy. The CIA knew and approved it. Armenia has come out of this conflict as an uncivilised, bloodthirtsty and revengeful nation. Angy people are weak people. And your leader is incompetent and confrontational. You lost this case. Armenia lost an ally and a friend and made many enemies. Here is how the West is looking at you: with concern. “Azeri killer Ramil Safarov: Concern over Armenian anger”

      • Zara says:

        So what was in that article that filled you with joy? And what abouth nation: please look at you first. Especially, at the level of your civilization. All web is filled by your schoolbooks – if you learn that humans are chordate, what to tell about your schoolbooks of history, ethics, and etc…..

  7. Pingback: Hungary Extradites Azerbaijani Axe Murderer: The Repercussions | The Contrarian Hungarian

  8. arthur says:

    We gave you people like Erno Kiss and Vilmos Lázár who gave their blood for your country and you trade whit our blood shame on you!!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      The Azeri axe killer’s family was massacared by Armenians. His mother was killed in front of him, as well as 15 members of his family. This is not an excuse nor justification, but one no longer wonder why Armenians have so few friends and many enemies.

      • Zara says:

        So, was it Margaryan who killed his family? And, if one is responsible for nation, why don’t you accept that contemporary turkishs are responsible for Armenian genocide?

      • Anonymous says:

        that’s a shameless lie. his mom died only some years after his arrest. his dad is alive , his brother is sick with Down syndrome, probably due to the fact that their parent are cousins and they are fruit of incest .
        so no wonder that your ”hero” also is mentally nation like heroes

  9. Pingback: Budapest: Milla’s demonstration against the Government « Andrei Stavilă's Photography

  10. Moses kestenbaum ODA says:

    Hungarian flag is torn? Big deal, it bothers me much more the Hungarian history how Hungarians helped the nazis in murdering close to a million Hungarian Jews. Not even 50 Hungarians were hanged for those crimes, so big deal that the Hungarian flag is torn to shreds, it means nothing, it represents nothing, it’s all a piece of cloth that represents a history drenched in Jewish blood

  11. Moses Kestenbaum ODA says:

    Turkish slaughter of Armenians is a crime that we shall never forget, the innocent children , widows , old women , was particular grueling . The fact that turkey never even apologized talks volumes about the Turkish psych or the Mohammad violent culture

  12. Moses Kestenbaum ODA says:

    Hungarian are stupid asses who are all nazis or wanna be nazis . Hungary should go to hell

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