After Hungary’s extradition to Azerbaijan of Ramil Safarov, who hacked to death Armenian army officer Gurgen Margaryan in Budapest in 2004 and was serving a life sentence in a Hungarian jail until August 31, experts in Armenia began to talk about the steps that can not only be an adequate response to this move, but will also toughen the position of Armenia in talks on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement.
Following last week’s controversial release in Hungary and subsequent pardoning of Azerbaijan national Ramil Safarov, convicted in the murder of Armenian Gurgen Margaryan, analysts and observers began to assume that the development gives Armenia more freedom in recognizing the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh, something that it was cautious to do before fearing Azerbaijan’s response with war.
Political autumn came early in Armenia as the struggle of Russia and the West over wielding more influence in Armenia began to take more prominent features already in August.
Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, who paid an unscheduled visit to Moscow on August 8, apparently agreed to Armenia joining the Eurasian Union, a nascent Russian project widely believed to be an effort to restore the former Soviet Union.
Tensions are again escalating on the Armenian-Azeri border – over the past few days Azeri snipers opened fire at border regions in what seems to be a rule rather than exception lately; one Azeri soldier was wounded as a result, another one surrendered to the Armenian troops.
Russian State Duma speaker Sergey Naryshkin on a visit in Yerevan stated that Armenia is trying to find its place in the Eurasian Union, well aware of the fact that the Eurasian economic area is a format for developing economic relations. “The leadership of Armenia is watching closely how the Eurasian Union project is unfolding and is trying to identify its place in that project,” he stated. .
Last Friday president Serzh Sargsyan was present at the Police Board session during which he made a number of statements, namely, he re-stated that there are no people in Armenia who are above the law and that all the rumors about somebody “backing” somebody are fairy tales: “If one has committed a crime, it has to be punished.”
Armenia might become a key country for communication and other projects to be implemented in the South Caucasus and over which the USA, Russia and Iran are engaged in an implicit war.
Most active among them is Iran. An unprecedented number of Iranian top-brass representatives visited Armenia during the past month, among them Vice-President Mohammad-Javad Mohammadizadeh, before him minister of internal affairs, and other officials. Iran and Armenia signed an agreement on opening a Peace Park on the shared border, as well as a free trade zone and a market.
OSCE Minsk Group (MG) co-chairs who were on a regional visit last week, unexpectedly suggested a new thesis in their final report. They talked about the opening of Stepanakert airport as one of trust measures between the sides of the Karabakh conflict.
Since 1992 Azerbaijan has been blocking Karabakh’s air space, hence the Stepanakert (commercial) airport has been out of use ever since. Three years ago Karabakh authorities took up major reconstruction of the airport and are now stating that it is technically ready for exploitation, and can even offer international flights. However, Azerbaijan is threatening that any aircraft to fly in the sky above Karabakh will be perceived as a trespasser and will be treated as such.
The subject of a single candidate from the opposition at next February’s presidential election has been at the forefront of recent internal political debate after the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF, Dashnaktsutyun) said following its General Meeting that while it could field its own candidate, it offered to all opposition forces to rally around the idea of a complete change of power and forming a counterbalance to the current president’s reelection bid.