Armenia has expressed readiness for a war with its arch-foe, the Republic of Azerbaijan, after Baku pardoned and promoted an Azerbaijani officer who axed an Armenian soldier to death.
“We don’t want a war, but if we have to, we will fight and win. We are not afraid of killers, even if they enjoy the protection of the head of state,” Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian said in a statement late on Sunday.
“They (Azerbaijanis) have been warned,” he said, calling Azerbaijan a country where “illicit orders set free….[a person] who kills people only because they are Armenians”.
Last week, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev immediately pardoned military officer Ramil Safarov after he was extradited from Hungary, where he had been serving life in prison for hacking Armenian officer Gurgen Margarian to death at a military academy in Budapest in 2004.
The two servicemen were attending English-language courses organized by NATO at the time.
Safarov was given a hero’s welcome, promoted to the rank of major, given a house and eight years’ worth of back-pay after returning to Azerbaijan.
On August 31, Armenia broke off diplomatic ties with Hungary after Safarov was sent back to his homeland and, despite assurances, immediately pardoned and freed.
Sarkisian said Armenia was “halting diplomatic relations and all official ties with Hungary.”
Protesters in the Armenian capital of Yerevan also threw tomatoes at the building housing Hungary’s honorary consulate, and tore down the Hungarian flag.
Azerbaijan and Armenia are ex-Soviet neighbors that have been stranded in a long-standing conflict over the mountainous territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, where they fought a war in the 1990s.