A possible chronology of the Azeri-Hungarian negotiations

By now we can more or less piece together the chronology of the Azeri-Hungarian negotiations about the transfer of Lieutenant Ramil Safarov of Azerbaijan from a Hungarian jail where he was serving a life sentence for the murder of an Armenian officer to Baku on August 31.

Azeri politicians keep emphasizing that the initiative for Safarov’s release came from Azerbaijan. They had never given up the idea of this national hero’s return to the homeland. This is also confirmed by Ferenc Gyurcsány, prime minister when Safarov was sentenced, who said that Azeri pressure on the Hungarian government was considerable. Gyurcsány claims, however, that the politicians serving in the prime minister’s office at the time came to the conclusion that the likelihood of the Azeri authorities letting Safarov loose once he arrived on Azeri soil was high. Therefore, as Azeri politicians repeatedly said in the last few days, the “Hungarians were stubborn and refused to negotiate.”

But as soon as Fidesz won the elections the negative Hungarian attitude to the Azeri request changed.  Azeri politicians talk about negotiations lasting over a year that eventually ended in Safarov’s release. In 2010 Viktor Orbán visited Baku for a conference, but it is unlikely that the topic was discussed seriously then. Sometime in 2011, however, the Hungarians became willing to oblige.

It was in mid-November 2011 that Pál Schmitt spent time in Baku where the topic was definitely discussed. We know that from an interview with Zahid Oruj, a member of the Azeri parliamentary committee for defense and security, who claimed that “Azerbaijan during
Safarov’s stay in prison was twice able to negotiate with the Hungarian side to release him. However, the first time this arrangement was disrupted by the resignation of the President of Hungary.” I can deduce from this statement that Viktor Orbán sent Schmitt to Baku to begin tentative negotiations for a deal with the Azeri government in exchange for Safarov’s transfer to Azerbaijan. Shortly after Schmitt’s trip, in early January 2012, Schmitt’s plagiarism case was discovered and the negotiations came to a screeching halt.

Once the Schmitt affair was over in April, the Hungarian government must have indicated to the Azeris that Hungary was ready to resume conversations on the topic. Moreover, the offer must have been couched in language that offered hope for Azeri success because on May 29 Péter Szijjártó, in those days still the personal spokesman for the prime minister, announced that Viktor Orbán had accepted the Azeri president’s personal invitation to visit Baku. Although Orbán didn’t make the trip to Azerbaijan until the end of June, on June 8 a letter was dispatched from the Hungarian Ministry of Public Administration asking the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Azerbaijan to state what steps they would take in case Hungary releases Safarov. In this letter the Hungarians wanted to have assurances from Azerbaijan that the Azeri government would honor the stipulations of the Strasbourg Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons of 1983.

The Azeri Ministry of Justice took its sweet time answering this letter. It was only on August 15 that the following letter, written in rather fractured English, was sent to Tibor Navracsics’s ministry:

The Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Azerbaijan presents its compliments to the Ministry of Public Administration and Justice of Hungary and has the honor to inform the following.

As a response to your inquiry about Ramil Sahib Safarov, who is serving his sentence in Hungary, we inform you that the execution of the courts decisions of the foreign states regarding the transfer of sentenced persons to serve the remaining part of their prison sentences in the Republic of Azerbaijan is carried out in accordance with Article 9 paragraph 1 point a) of the European Convention without any conversion and without having to go through any new judicial procedure.

Please be also informed that in accordance with Article 57.3 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Azerbaijan the punishment of a convict who is serving a life sentence could only be replaced by court with an imprisonment for a certain period or he could be released on conditional parole, only after he has served at least twenty-five years of his sentence.

Vilayat Zahirov, Deputy Minister of Justice, Republic of Azerbaijan.

It is difficult to understand what prompted the long delay between the Hungarian inquiry of June 8 and the Azeri answer of August 15. Perhaps some details had to be ironed out. Péter Szijjártó’s visit to Baku on July 23 might have been part of this process. It is also possible that what the Azeris wanted to know was whether the assurance that was eventually sent on August 15 would satisfy the Hungarians. Given what followed next, the answer had to be positive.

On the basis of my reading of the reports from Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Hungary I am coming to the conclusion that János Martonyi’s foreign ministry was left out of the loop completely. That’s why the ministry was so sluggish responding to Safarov’s pardon by the Azeri president. When reporters asked its spokesman about the ministry’s reaction, the answer was that “they are still studying the matter.” Well, if they had been involved in the negotiations all along, they wouldn’t have needed to study the details after the fact.

It was only this afternoon that Zsolt Németh, undersecretary of the Hungarian foreign ministry, handed a memorandum to Vilayat Guliyev, Azeri ambassador in Budapest, to the effect that “Hungary finds the Azeri procedure in the extradition of Safarov unacceptable.”

Some Hungarian commentators think that since it was the ministry of administration and justice, together with Péter Szijjártó, who were involved in the negotiations it was a lack of diplomatic experience that caused the “misunderstanding.” I don’t believe this for a moment. It’s hard to picture Viktor Orbán as a babe in arms or “an aging teenager,” as Gáspár Miklós Tamás called him, who is so naive that he cannot read a legal document or who is totally unaware of the very precarious political and military situation in the region.

Sorry, Armenia!

I think Orbán knew what he was doing. He desperately wants to avoid a loan from the IMF because that would limit his freedom of action. He tried to get China and later Saudi Arabia to purchase Hungarian government bonds, but he failed. Just this year Hungary will have to pay back 4.7 billion euros worth of loans. Azerbaijan promised to buy 2-3 billion euros worth of  Hungarian government bonds. He was ready to strike a bargain. It seems even with the devil.

This time the churches raised their voices. Cardinal Péter Erdő, head of the Hungarian Catholic Church, expressed the solidarity of the Hungarian Conference of Bishops with the Armenian Christians and the Armenian people. The Calvinists and the Lutherans went even further, stating that “the church leaders don’t doubt the legality of the steps taken by the Hungarian authorities but they condemn their consequences.”

DK organized a small demonstration of diehards in front of the parliament building. I assume the demonstration that the Facebook group, Hey Armenia, Sorry about our Prime Minister, is planning for Tuesday will be more robust. Meanwhile the number of supporters of the initative is well over 8,000. Hungarians seem to be really disgusted with the Orbán government’s policies at home and abroad. One day the whole thing will boil over. I’m almost sure.

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Guest
Cherry17
September 2, 2012 5:45 pm

As far as I know the demonstration is on Tuesday not Wednesday in Kossuth square. At 6 pm

Guest
gdfxx
September 2, 2012 6:07 pm

It looks like the Azeri Deputy Minister of Justice conveniently forgot to mention the possibility of a presidential pardon. The Hungarian government conveniently discounted this possibility.

Guest
GW
September 2, 2012 6:19 pm

“Azerbaijan promised to buy 2-3 billion euros worth of Hungarian government bonds.”

Since the Azeris failed to keep Safarov in prison, as promised in their memo, what realistic expectation can anyone now have that the Azeris will keep the promise to buy Hungarian bonds? With Safarov now safe and free in Azerbaijan, the Hungarian government has absolutely no leverage with the Azeris to insure that they actually buy the bonds. It is now reasonable to expect that, in addition to the embarrassment about handing over an ax murderer and the insult to both the Hungarian criminal justice system and to a diplomatic ally, Armenia, Hungary will soon face a second embarrassment when the Azeris do not buy those bonds. The naivete here on the part of the Orban government is painful to watch,

Guest
gdfxx
September 2, 2012 6:24 pm

GW :
The naivete here on the part of the Orban government is painful to watch,

I hate to call them a bunch of idiots, but that is what they are. They probably imagined that this whole thing would happen quietly, nobody would even know…

Guest
gdfxx
September 2, 2012 6:33 pm

A quick glance at the Azerbaijani constitution (http://www.servat.unibe.ch/icl/aj00000_.html) shows two things:

Article 65 Right for repeated appeal to the law court
Every person convicted by the law court has the right to appeal, as specified by the law, to the higher law court asking for reconsideration of the verdict and also for pardon and mitigation of the sentence.

Article 109 Competence of the President of the Azerbaijan Republic
The President of the Azerbaijan Republic:

22. grants pardon;

I guess the Hungarian government has no internet access…

Guest
September 2, 2012 6:39 pm

gdfxx :

GW :
The naivete here on the part of the Orban government is painful to watch,

I hate to call them a bunch of idiots, but that is what they are. They probably imagined that this whole thing would happen quietly, nobody would even know…

They’re not naive, they’re just cock-sure. They pulled a fast one and got away with it. This is OV all over.

Guest
September 2, 2012 6:46 pm

Oops – posted that before I actually read the comment it was based on!

So I’d better amend my post to “and they think they got away with it”. We’d better hope that the Azeris do the dirty on Orbán. To pull a stroke like that and then NOT get the money would really hit him where it hurts.

Stand by for increasingly desperate spin from Fidesz over the next few months…

Guest
petofi
September 2, 2012 7:20 pm

gdfxx :

GW :
The naivete here on the part of the Orban government is painful to watch,

I hate to call them a bunch of idiots, but that is what they are. They probably imagined that this whole thing would happen quietly, nobody would even know…

Orban is an idiot. Szijarto is a little martinet idiot sitting on the master’s knee. There will be no bonds bought. Orban just laid himself open for a royal screwing and a superior criminal mind showed him how it’s done. After running around the Far East, the Near East, and the Middle East for cash, all Orban achieved was to set himself up.

The echoes of laughter will be heard for years to come.

Guest
Dubious
September 2, 2012 7:57 pm

A week ago, Martonyi was saying that diplomats should be more informed of government legislation and positions so that the prepare to deal with the international reaction.

http://www.politics.hu/20120827/diplomats-should-be-more-involved-in-legislation-says-martonyi/

‘Martonyi said a lot of problems could be avoided if diplomats keep a watchful eye on the international impacts of certain laws…..

‘Martonyi noted, however, that Hungarian legislation in the past two years had been too fast to expect diplomats “to explain laws in advance, even before their content and aim were not clear to them, since some bills were often amended even in the very last moments”.’

Guest
September 2, 2012 8:06 pm

Paul :
Oops – posted that before I actually read the comment it was based on!
So I’d better amend my post to “and they think they got away with it”. We’d better hope that the Azeris do the dirty on Orbán. To pull a stroke like that and then NOT get the money would really hit him where it hurts.
Stand by for increasingly desperate spin from Fidesz over the next few months…

Only just noticed that the comment that this relates to is “awaiting moderation”, so this doesn’t make any sense at all!

Hopefully it will, eventually…

Guest
Pete H.
September 2, 2012 10:28 pm

Az örmény nép és a világ bocsánatát kérjük – TÜNTETÉS

https://www.facebook.com/events/258927310876694/

Guest

[…] államfő plágium botránya. Balogh S. Éva kollégánk az amerikai Hungarian Spectrumban azt írta, hogy Orbán Schmittet küldhette Bakuba tárgyalni egy esetleges megállapodás részleteiről. […]

Guest
September 3, 2012 3:21 am

Why are so many Foreigners interfering with what is strictly an intra-Turanian affair? And for the Hungarians among you, please, hush up your non-Asian halves… :)

Guest
oneill
September 3, 2012 3:58 am

“I think Orbán knew what he was doing.”

Well, it looks like his cunning plan misfired bigtime.
Unless the Azeris have already done so, they have no reason whatsover now to bail the meglomaniac out.

It really looks like he thought it would pass under the radar (hence the lack of a Plan B PR/wise when the inevitable release happened). But not apparently even pre-informing his own Foreign Ministry as you have guessed probably correctly beggars belief.

Guest
September 3, 2012 4:03 am

I think Orbán knew what he was doing. He desperately wants to avoid a loan from the IMF because that would limit his freedom of action. He tried to get China and later Saudi Arabia to purchase Hungarian government bonds, but he failed. Just this year Hungary will have to pay back 4.7 billion euros worth of loans.

When the govt. avoid doing proper job, finding appropriate solutions to the problem , this is what happens! They have taken so many short cuts, each one worst than other, I wonder how far can they sink?

Guest
LwiiH
September 3, 2012 4:52 am

enufff :
I think Orbán knew what he was doing. He desperately wants to avoid a loan from the IMF because that would limit his freedom of action. He tried to get China and later Saudi Arabia to purchase Hungarian government bonds, but he failed. Just this year Hungary will have to pay back 4.7 billion euros worth of loans.
When the govt. avoid doing proper job, finding appropriate solutions to the problem , this is what happens! They have taken so many short cuts, each one worst than other, I wonder how far can they sink?

If this deal comes through it does make the IMF deal seem a wee bit more redundant. If it doesn’t OV will be in a pretty difficult situation given that the IMF will know that they *are* the lender of last choice! That said, you can’t fault the government for shopping about for a better deal. In fact, they’d be remiss if they didn’t. However, to trade a criminal for a loan deal? Unbelievable!!!

Guest
September 3, 2012 6:30 am

gdfxx :

GW :
The naivete here on the part of the Orban government is painful to watch,

I hate to call them a bunch of idiots, but that is what they are. They probably imagined that this whole thing would happen quietly, nobody would even know…

Guest
September 3, 2012 6:31 am
Guest
go1776
September 3, 2012 6:59 am

Talking about naivete, all of us could cry and laugh at the Romsics article in the NOL:
Romsics Ignác: Trianon és a holokauszt
Huszadik századi traumáink
http://nol.hu/belfold/20120901-huszadik_szazadi_traumaink
Could anybody use a similar tone in an American magazine for an article about American minorities?

Guest
September 3, 2012 8:32 am

LwiiH :

If this deal comes through it does make the IMF deal seem a wee bit more redundant. If it doesn’t OV will be in a pretty difficult situation given that the IMF will know that they *are* the lender of last choice! That said, you can’t fault the government for shopping about for a better deal. In fact, they’d be remiss if they didn’t. However, to trade a criminal for a loan deal? Unbelievable!!!
</blockquot

You said it yourself trading a criminal in order to fund the economy/country is "unbelievable!". It is just a quick fix and it is call selling your soul!

Guest
petofi
September 3, 2012 8:59 am

LwiiH : enufff : I think Orbán knew what he was doing. He desperately wants to avoid a loan from the IMF because that would limit his freedom of action. He tried to get China and later Saudi Arabia to purchase Hungarian government bonds, but he failed. Just this year Hungary will have to pay back 4.7 billion euros worth of loans. When the govt. avoid doing proper job, finding appropriate solutions to the problem , this is what happens! They have taken so many short cuts, each one worst than other, I wonder how far can they sink? If this deal comes through it does make the IMF deal seem a wee bit more redundant. If it doesn’t OV will be in a pretty difficult situation given that the IMF will know that they *are* the lender of last choice! That said, you can’t fault the government for shopping about for a better deal. In fact, they’d be remiss if they didn’t. However, to trade a criminal for a loan deal? Unbelievable!!! @LwiH: You must’ve written this before your morning coffee…. What BETTER DEAL are you talking about? The IMF loan costs about 4% while government bonds cost at… Read more »

Guest
September 3, 2012 8:59 am

IMPORTANT: The date is not June 8, but August 6, have a look at the date format in the upper left hand corner (day – month – year). This means that Szijjarto ironed out the details before asking the Navracsics Ministry to contact its Azeri counterpart.

Guest
September 3, 2012 9:00 am

IMPORTANT: The date is not June 8, but August 6, have a look at the date format in the upper left hand corner (day – month – year). This means that Szijjarto ironed out the details before asking the Navracsics Ministry to contact its Azeri counterpart.

Here is the letter: http://mno.hu/belfold/itt-a-bizonyitek-hazudtak-az-azeriek-1102783

Guest
September 3, 2012 9:25 am

ahh, come on, Hungarian Government was in course that Azerbaijan will free Safarov after transfer, that was obvious…

Guest
An
September 3, 2012 9:25 am

miohun :
IMPORTANT: The date is not June 8, but August 6, have a look at the date format in the upper left hand corner (day – month – year). This means that Szijjarto ironed out the details before asking the Navracsics Ministry to contact its Azeri counterpart.
Here is the letter: http://mno.hu/belfold/itt-a-bizonyitek-hazudtak-az-azeriek-1102783

Thanks, that makes a lot more sense. They used the British date format (day-month-year).

Guest
An
September 3, 2012 9:47 am

Pete H. : Az örmény nép és a világ bocsánatát kérjük – TÜNTETÉS https://www.facebook.com/events/258927310876694/ Demonstration is planned on Tuesday in Hungary…. not all Hungarians are willing to take the disgrace Orban is bringing to his country. Even if we interpret the Hungarian government’s action as naivete and not as a precalculated decision to get financial help from the Azeris, it was such a grave mistake that the person responsible for the decision should resign.And of course, no further dealings with the Azeris. Demonstrators should ask for nothing less. No, I don’t think Orban would resign, but if the pressure increases, he may “sacrifice” Navracsics or Martonyi. It is clear though, that the whole thing was decided by Orban. Of course, His latest comments about the affair reflect total denial of any wrongdoing: he claims that Hungary did not make any mistakes as the deal was completely legal, and that the he doesn’t think there is a whole lot of significance of the issue. When asked about what steps Hungary is planning to take, ha said, “Hungary is not planning anything and is treating the issue according to its significance.” http://www.origo.hu/itthon/20120903-orban-nem-hibaztunk-a-kiadatasnal.html As for further dealings with the Azeris, Szijjarto has already… Read more »

Guest
Bowen
September 3, 2012 10:09 am

An :

When asked about what steps Hungary is planning to take, Orban said, “Hungary is not planning anything and is treating the issue according to its significance.”

Well, Russia has added its concerns to this whole affair. Not only that, but this is the latest from AFP:
“Armenia warned Azerbaijan it was ready for war as tensions soared Monday between the ex-Soviet foes after Baku pardoned and promoted an Azerbaijani officer who axed an Armenian soldier to death.”

Well done Viktor!

Guest
LwiiH
September 3, 2012 10:29 am

petofi : LwiiH : enufff : I think Orbán knew what he was doing. He desperately wants to avoid a loan from the IMF because that would limit his freedom of action. He tried to get China and later Saudi Arabia to purchase Hungarian government bonds, but he failed. Just this year Hungary will have to pay back 4.7 billion euros worth of loans. When the govt. avoid doing proper job, finding appropriate solutions to the problem , this is what happens! They have taken so many short cuts, each one worst than other, I wonder how far can they sink? If this deal comes through it does make the IMF deal seem a wee bit more redundant. If it doesn’t OV will be in a pretty difficult situation given that the IMF will know that they *are* the lender of last choice! That said, you can’t fault the government for shopping about for a better deal. In fact, they’d be remiss if they didn’t. However, to trade a criminal for a loan deal? Unbelievable!!! @LwiH: You must’ve written this before your morning coffee…. What BETTER DEAL are you talking about? The IMF loan costs about 4% while government bonds… Read more »

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