WASHINGTON — Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) last week condemned President Ilham Aliyev’s release of Ramil Safarov, the Azerbaijani army lieutenant who was convicted of brutally axing to death Armenian soldier Gurgen Markarian in his sleep, during a 2004 NATO English-language training course.
“I am shocked and appalled that Azerbaijan not only welcomed Safarov home, but pardoned, promoted and treated him as a hero,” noted Kerry, in a statement. “This needlessly provocative act endangers the fragile peace between these countries and damages the government of Azerbaijan’s credibility.”
Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Eastern Region Executive Director Michelle Hagopian welcomed Kerry’s statement, noting “We join with Armenian Americans from throughout the Commonwealth in welcoming Senator Kerry’s condemnation of Azerbaijan’s pardon of convicted axe-murderer Ramil Safarov. We thank the senator for his principled stand against this injustice, and urge him and his legislative colleagues, in the interest of peace, to act now to cut off all US military aid, sales or transfers to Azerbaijan.”
Kerry echoes statements issued by a number of US representatives this week decrying Azerbaijan’s release and subsequent glorification of Safarov.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Democrat Henry Waxman (D-CA) noted that he is “deeply disturbed by the president of Azerbaijan’s decision to pardon Ramil Safarov, an Azerbaijani military lieutenant who gruesomely murdered Armenian Lt. Gurgen Markarian while the two soldiers were participating in the 2004 NATO Partnership for Peace program in Hungary. It is an appalling demonstration of the Azerbaijani government’s continued refusal to reconcile with Armenia and its unwillingness to uphold the rule of law.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Democrat Howard Berman (D-CA) called Safarov’s release “contemptible,” noting, “that Safarov in a premeditated fashion killed Markarian at a NATO Partnership for Peace event underscores the cynical brutality of his act. For the Hungarian government to have demonstrated leniency in this matter is of grave concern… The Azerbaijani government’s decision to free Safarov is contemptible and a serious blow to hopes for Armenian-Azerbaijani peace.”