OSCE mediators brokering settlement to the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh have held separate meetings with the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan to address recent events in the region and efforts to peacefully resolve the long-standing dispute, the OSCE website said Monday.
The OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs -- Robert Bradtke of the United States, Igor Popov of Russia and Jacques Faure of France -- discussed on Sunday with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandyan and on Monday with the Azerbaijani minister, Elmar Mammadyarov, the August 31 decision of the Azerbaijani government to pardon Ramil Safarov, an Azerbaijani army officer who had been serving a life sentence in Hungary for killing an Armenian officer in Budapest in 2004.
The mediators expressed their deep concern and regret for the alleged "damage the pardon and any attempts to glorify the crime have done" to the peace process and trust between the sides, their statement says.
The co-chairs reiterated to both ministers that, as their presidents stated in Los Cabos on June 19, there is no alternative to a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The co-chairs also said they would continue to maintain contacts with the sides to reduce tensions and advance the peace process.
EU, Russia react to officer's pardon
The EU and Russia have reacted to the extradition and pardon of Azerbaijani officer Ramil Safarov.
The EU said it calls on the authorities of Azerbaijan and Armenia to prevent "the escalation of tensions in bilateral relations" as a result of Safarov's extradition from Hungary to Azerbaijan, said Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
"We call on Azerbaijan and Armenia to show restraint in their public statements to prevent any kind of escalation of the situation," Kocijancic told reporters in Brussels, Russian RIA Novosti news agency reported.
She said that the EU, in particular, is concerned about the possible impact that the current situation could have on the region of the South Caucasus as a whole.
Russia, which co-chairs the mediating OSCE Minsk Group, met with deep concern the reports on Baku's pardon of serviceman Safarov, as well as the decision of the Hungarian authorities to extradite him to Azerbaijan, a statement posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry's website said on Monday.
Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman Elman Abdullayev said at a press briefing on Saturday that the return of Ramil Safarov to Azerbaijan is a matter of relations between Azerbaijan and Hungary, which was resolved in line with the law and is not contrary to the principles of international law.
Safarov hails from Jabrayil, one of Azerbaijan's regions that are under Armenian occupation. Safarov, 35, who participated in NATO exercises in 2004 in Hungary, was charged with the murder of Armenian officer Gurgen Margaryan, who insulted the Azerbaijani flag. A Budapest court sentenced Safarov to life imprisonment without the right to a parole for 30 years.
The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries emerged in 1988 over Armenia's territorial claims against Azerbaijan. The ensuing war claimed some 30,000 lives and displaced up to a million Azerbaijanis. About 20 percent of Azerbaijani territory, including the Nagorno Karabakh region, has been occupied by Armenian armed forces since a ceasefire was signed in 1994. Peace talks have been largely fruitless so far.
Armenia has not yet implemented the U.N. Security Council's four resolutions on its pullout from Nagorno Karabakh and the seven surrounding regions.