What really happened? Azeri-Hungarian negotiations

Ever since Magyar Nemzet received a facsimile of the Azeri promises concerning Ramil Safarov’s continued prison sentence, people in the opposition press kept asking why the Hungarian government was silent on the issue. If the Azeris went back on their word, why don’t the Hungarians protest and condemn the action of Azerbaijan?

Late yesterday afternoon there was a belated protest from the foreign ministry. The Azeri ambassador was told that the Hungarian government disapproves of his country’s handling of Safarov’s case because “it is contrary to the promises given to Hungary by the undersecretary of the Ministry of Justice of Azerbaijan.” But the foreign ministry’s protest was phony at best, and it is clear from the ambassador’s reaction that the Azeris didn’t take the protest very seriously either. The government of Azerbaijan had no reason to apologize. It hadn’t transgressed any international law. And Hungary had no reason to protest; the protest was merely part of a cover-up of the real story.

To my knowledge it was Péter Balázs, foreign minister in the Bajnai government, who first pointed out in an interview on ATV’s Start program this morning that the August 15 letter sent to the Hungarian Ministry of Administration and Justice  didn’t include any guarantee, “and if the Hungarians saw any guarantee in this text they have problems with reading comprehension.” I assume that Balázs spoke with an edge and didn’t intend to accuse the government of either naivete or stupidity. The text of the August 15th letter was written as a result of a prior agreement between the negotiating partners. The Hungarians didn’t ask for anything more than they got.

So, let’s go back to see what was promised in the letter signed by Vilayat Zahirov, deputy minister of justice of Azerbaijan.  It promised to adhere to Art.9 ¶1 of the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons of 1983. This passage states: “The competent authorities of the administering State shall: a. continue the enforcement of the sentence immediately or through a court or administrative order, under the conditions set out in Article 10, or b. convert the sentence, through a judicial or administrative procedure, into a decision of that State, thereby substituting for the sanction imposed in the sentencing State a sanction prescribed by the law of the administering State for the same offence.” But there is another article, no. 12, entitled “Pardon, amnesty, commutation.” It is brief: “Each party may grant pardon, amnesty or commutation of the sentence in accordance with its Constitution or other laws.”

In conclusion, Azerbaijan is innocent in this ugly affair. They didn’t promise not to pardon Ramil Safarov.  The only guilty one is Hungary who wittingly assisted Azerbaijan in this dirty business. They had to know that the convicted murderer had become a national hero in Azerbaijan right after he committed that unspeakable murder in 2004. Surely, they also had to know that the Azeri government had no intention of keeping Safarov in jail and that more than likely he would receive a pardon from the president of Azerbaijan.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Hungarian request of August 8 specifically mentioned that a reference to Art.9 ¶1 would do. At the very least the negotiating partners had to agree at one of their several meetings that the Azeris’ so-called guarantee would focus on Art.9 ¶1. That would be enough for a cover story. They could blithely forget about Art.12.

Viktor Orbán and Ilham Aliyev: “and with this … in his sleep”
Montage that appeared on Egyenlő TV

This morning at last Viktor Orbán said a few words about the Azeri-Armenian-Hungarian crisis that erupted on Friday. Although he didn’t look exactly calm and rested, he tried to give the impression of a man who doesn’t care what’s going on with regard to his decision to release the Azeri “national hero” or the consequences of this decision. He tried to look cool and give the impression of a man who handles “everything according to its significance.” The indication was that this affair is simply not important enough to worry about. The Armenian government’s decision to break off diplomatic relations with Hungary also didn’t seem to bother the Hungarian prime minister.

Among the opposition parties it was the Demokratikus Koalíció that formulated the clearest condemnation of the Hungarian government’s role in this crisis. It was also DK that outlined the most likely scenario. Csaba Molnár, the second in charge in DK, summarized the party’s opinion this way. “After a day of silence the government began to lie.” By dragging out the August 15th letter of the deputy minister of justice of Azerbaijan they kept claiming that “Azerbaijan conned Hungary.”  But nothing of the sort happened. Viktor Orbán knowingly left a loophole for the Azeris by not insisting on guarantees concerning a possible pardon. Surely, Molnár continued, “the experienced and talented lawyers in the ministry of justice were fully aware of Art.12 of the Convention.” So, “the whole responsibility for this fiasco lies entirely with Viktor Orbán and his government.”

The deal, it seems, was struck on the strength of a promise by the Azeris that Azerbaijan would purchase 2-3 billion euros’ worth of Hungarian government bonds. The first news about this possibility appeared in Figyelő, a financial paper. On August 23 the paper reported that “a source close to the economy ministry of  György Matolcsy” said that the negotiations with Azerbaijan includes the possibility of floating Hungarian government bonds in Azeri currency, the manat. The amount received from Azerbaijan would cover the greater portion of Hungary’s sovereign debt for this year. However, István Madár, an economist working for Portfolio, has his doubts that anything will come of the deal. He was told by an expert close to the government a few months back when Hungary made a futile attempt to tap Arab funds that “you can hardly expect a country to invest in your government securities before establishing trade relations, relations between parent companies and subsidiaries and personal business experiences….. Azerbaijan eerily resembles a country with which Hungary has no meaningful trade relations.”

According to Madár, Azerbaijan can easily go back on its word unless “honor will rule over rationality in President Aliyev’s mind.” As far as the costs and benefits of the case, he continued, “there is a good chance that yet another attempt at an unorthodox way of debt financing has gone up in flames, and that Hungary’s perception worsened even further in the eyes of the country’s creditors.”

A Turkish bank has confirmed that it is in fact preparing the manat bond issuance. The only question is whether there will be a ready buyer.

After DK’s comments on the Azeri-Hungarian deal were released, Attila Mesterházy, chairman of the Hungarian Socialist Party, also spoke. He asked twelve questions from Viktor Orbán. 1. Did the question of Ramil Safarov’s release come up during the talks between the Hungarian prime minister and Ilhan Aliyev, president of Azerbaijan? 2. Does Novruz Mammadov, the foreign relations chief of the office of the Azeri president, tell the truth when he says that negotiations between Hungary and Azerbaijan have been going on for at least a year? 3. What were the new facts on the basis of which the government decided to change the opinion of the former governments about the release of Ramil Safarov? 4. Did Azerbaijan offer anything for the release of Ramil Safarov? 5. Is it true that the Azeri government offered the purchase of 2-3 billion euros’ worth of Hungarian government bonds? Is there any connection between the offering and the release of the murderer? 6. Did the Hungarian government study the reality of the Azeri guarantee that the murderer will not be pardoned after his return? 7. Did you [Viktor Orbán] receive any objections against the extradition from either the foreign ministry or from the ministry of administration? 8. Why was the government silent on the topic for 48 hours after the news broke? 9. Was the final decision yours or that of your deputy, Tibor Navracsics? 10. Did you anticipate the domestic and international scandal caused by extradition and did you think of the potential damage caused by it? 11. Did you think of the potential national security threat as a result of this decision? 12. Given the situation do you [Orbán] contemplate the dismissal of Deputy Prime Minister Tibor Navracsics and Foreign Minister János Martonyi? Finally, Mesterházy called on Orbán to apologize to the relatives of the murdered Gurgen Margaryan.

In the past Tibor Navracsics had the reputation of being a moderate man in the the top Fidesz leadership. There was also talk about his disapproval of certain aspects of government policies as dictated by Viktor Orbán. I for one never thought that anyone who got as far as Navracsics did in the Orbán administration could offer a significantly better alternative to Orbán. And indeed. After DK released its conclusions concerning the Azeri-Hungarian deal, the ministry of administration and justice released a communique claiming that the Azeri letter was a sufficient guarantee as far as the Hungarians were concerned. After all, Azerbaijan is a member of the Council of Europe.

This story will go on and on.

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Paul
Guest
September 3, 2012 3:59 pm

Typo in the third para, Éva – “didn’t not include any guarantee”.

Please delete this post.

petofi
Guest
petofi
September 3, 2012 4:11 pm

“And this story will go on and on…”

And may it never rest, much as the Schmidt Pal fiasco continued until a satisfactory conclusion was reached.
Here, the only satisfactory end is the resignation of the
government.

petofi
Guest
petofi
September 3, 2012 4:23 pm

Has a head of state ever made a more demeaning comment than, “…everything according to the significance…” ?

Gábor
Guest
Gábor
September 3, 2012 4:27 pm
Actually, when Azerbaijan joined the convention in an additional protocol or note they explicitly excluded the application of par. 9. point 1/b (converting a sentence) and the informaion os easily available at the Council of Europe website. Therefore to seek reassurance whether they will not convert the sentence or to ask what option offered by the treaty they will chose (these are the most probable qustions implied by the Azeri letter) was simply redundant. It just makes the whole Azeri letter more suspicious and seem more part of a not quite clever cover up manoeuvre. Mesterházy’s 7. point is quite stupid, instead ge should have asked how did the government come to the conclusion that the publicized Azeri letter consists any guarantee concerning an immediate pardoning? Otherwsie they shoukd turn the affair into an issue of national security, quite legitimately. Anything happened between Aliyev and Orbán the affair created a credible image that Orbán practically sold out a criminal for moderately cheap loan to an authoritarian ruler who s preforming an elaborate “pávatánc” between Russia, the USA, the Eu and Iran, while his country has a growing importance fro the energy security of the EU. The problem with such a… Read more »
petofi
Guest
petofi
September 3, 2012 5:00 pm

“…undermine his position internationally.”

And what position is that?
Has Orban any standing internationally whatever?
Perhaps with the Albanians who he has promised to
get into the EU…

tappanch
Guest
tappanch
September 3, 2012 5:08 pm

Rewarding murderers is not unique to Azerbaijan:
Just today: “PA Increases Salaries to Jailed Terrorists Who Killed Israelis”

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/159589#.UEUPiqOBbMk

Member
September 3, 2012 6:01 pm

tappanch :
Rewarding murderers is not unique to Azerbaijan:
Just today: “PA Increases Salaries to Jailed Terrorists Who Killed Israelis”
http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/159589#.UEUPiqOBbMk

Well, Orban indirectly taken this road too. He has paid great salary to Ramil Safarov and Orban himself received a great sum from the Azeri government. On a certain way Orban can be charged for helping Safarov jailbreak and receiving benefits for this crime.

Gábor
Guest
Gábor
September 4, 2012 12:53 am

petofi :
“…undermine his position internationally.”
And what position is that?
Has Orban any standing internationally whatever?
Perhaps with the Albanians who he has promised to
get into the EU…

Whatever our opinion on Orbán is and however isolated he is personally, he is an acting prime minister of a NATO and EU country. As a consequence he is regular attendee of important meetings of political decision making bodies, his government has access to information he himself can any time use freely and he or his diplomats can try to influence decisions in these organizations in favor of anyone. He has the means and if he is blackmailed that itself poses a danger of being hijacked by a country whose interests can be different from or opposite to the interests of these organizations.

Cherry17
Guest
Cherry17
September 4, 2012 4:03 am

It has just occured to me that Orbán may have had enough of all this and he is going to classify everything related to this sad affair for 90 years.

Cherry17
Guest
Cherry17
September 4, 2012 4:41 am

It has just been announced officially that the Azeris are not buying any Hungarian state bonds so I tend to believe that the money they paid for the killer may have landed in a secret private bank account. Correct me if Iam wrong or maybe my imagination is too vivid.

petofi
Guest
petofi
September 4, 2012 4:53 am

Cherry17 :
It has just been announced officially that the Azeris are not buying any Hungarian state bonds so I tend to believe that the money they paid for the killer may have landed in a secret private bank account. Correct me if Iam wrong or maybe my imagination is too vivid.

Not unlikely that one or two well-heeled gentlemen took down 10-15 million euros
apiece–a much more manageable commitment than 3 billion euros, wouldn’t you say?

Ahh, when communists ‘learn’ about capitalism, eh?

Kingfisher
Guest
Kingfisher
September 4, 2012 5:21 am

Átlátszó.hu seems to have discovered who really owns kurucinfo: http://atlatszo.hu/2012/09/04/bemutatjuk-a-kuruc-info-tulajdonosat/

The fourth paragraph refers to this blog which inadvertently muddied the waters concerning the identity of the real Béla Varga.

Nigar
Guest
Nigar
September 4, 2012 5:41 am

I am from Azerbaijan.I write this letter with a great pleasure to Hungary.Thank you Goverment Hungary for to extradition Ramil Safarov to Azerbaijan!Thank you Hungary for this justice!The only justified country in Europe where celebration tolerance.THANK YOU GOD finally,justice showed itself!!!

Kingfisher
Guest
Kingfisher
September 4, 2012 5:44 am

@Nigar, are you sure you are not from Norway?!

petofi
Guest
petofi
September 4, 2012 6:54 am

Gábor :

petofi :
“…undermine his position internationally.”
And what position is that?
Has Orban any standing internationally whatever?
Perhaps with the Albanians who he has promised to
get into the EU…

Whatever our opinion on Orbán is and however isolated he is personally, he is an acting prime minister of a NATO and EU country. As a consequence he is regular attendee of important meetings of political decision making bodies, his government has access to information he himself can any time use freely and he or his diplomats can try to influence decisions in these organizations in favor of anyone. He has the means and if he is blackmailed that itself poses a danger of being hijacked by a country whose interests can be different from or opposite to the interests of these organizations.

Do you remember the movie, “The Manchurian Candidate”?
Now, just think of such a character in the bosom of our heroic Hungary….

Member
September 4, 2012 7:06 am

Nigar :
I am from Azerbaijan.I write this letter with a great pleasure to Hungary.Thank you Goverment Hungary for to extradition Ramil Safarov to Azerbaijan!Thank you Hungary for this justice!The only justified country in Europe where celebration tolerance.THANK YOU GOD finally,justice showed itself!!!

Mot welcome at all, and please do not thank Hungary! Thank Orban Viktor, your accomplice after the fact of murder in the prison break of your axe murderer. If this is what Azerbaijan can thank God and the world for, your people and your country is in bigger trouble morally and otherwise then the whole world suspected. A good news for you although that a Hungarian party (Fidesz) is your friend and at your moral level. Can you take them to your country as a present of the Hungarian nation.

Member
September 4, 2012 7:33 am

Correction to my previous post: “NOT welcome at all”

Jano
Guest
Jano
September 4, 2012 7:53 am

Good post Eva, but I think it’s pretty unfortunate to use the word innocent in connection with the Azeris as Mr. Nigar’s example shows.

Paul
Guest
September 4, 2012 9:03 am

tappanch :
Rewarding murderers is not unique to Azerbaijan:
Just today: “PA Increases Salaries to Jailed Terrorists Who Killed Israelis”
http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/159589#.UEUPiqOBbMk

Are you equating people who murder as an act of resistance against an occupying power with those who murder just because they hate another people?

I don’t condone either, but to equate the two is simplistic at the very least.

Louis Kovach
Guest
September 4, 2012 10:23 am

Dr Balogh #16: “Not quite accurate. In the first place it was not I who mixed them up but the source that first discovered him. Second, I immediately wrote another article that corrected the mistake.”

So if one spreads lies, she is not guilty only the originator of the lie is guilty….I would not expect that you would apologize for anything.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest
Karl Pfeifer
September 4, 2012 10:55 am

Those of you understanding Hungarian should look at ECHOTV (proprietor Gábor Széles, a good friend of Orbán) the frenzied Ferenc Szaniszló, who has an original explanation for Orbán’s Azeri deal. He found out who is responsible for the release of the Azeri murderer. Not surprisingly he made out the culprit, it is no other than the State of Israel and the Jews.
http://mandiner.hu/cikk/20120904_baltas_gyilkosos_vilagpanorama

Guest
September 4, 2012 11:13 am

London Calling!

Eva – I for one would like you to exclude Kovach from your blog.

I originally thought our responses could make him see reason – but he is ‘deaf” to us all.

Please consider excluding this troll – he rarely illuminates the debate – and his contributions are just so off beam.

Regards

Charlie

gdfxx
Guest
gdfxx
September 4, 2012 11:33 am

Paul :

tappanch :
Rewarding murderers is not unique to Azerbaijan:
Just today: “PA Increases Salaries to Jailed Terrorists Who Killed Israelis”
http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/159589#.UEUPiqOBbMk

Are you equating people who murder as an act of resistance against an occupying power with those who murder just because they hate another people?
I don’t condone either, but to equate the two is simplistic at the very least.

He was not equating the murderers, he was equating the two systems that reward murderers.

1qaz
Guest
1qaz
September 4, 2012 11:42 am

@CharlieH

I beg to disagree, with respect and appreciation for your otherwise interesting posts.

As long as Mr. Kovach remains civil and does not trespass certain limits (probably narrower than those of freedom of speech) then he should not be excluded; that is even (and maybe precisely because) what he stands for and the positions he expresses or advocates are not widely shared by those who read and enjoy this blog (me included).

Ms Balogh is of course the ultimate arbiter of who can and who cannot post on her blog. However, merely because, in your opinion, “he rarely illuminates the debate – and his contributions are just so off beam” are not good reasons for filtering him out.

gdfxx
Guest
gdfxx
September 4, 2012 12:00 pm

1qaz :
@CharlieH
I beg to disagree, with respect and appreciation for your otherwise interesting posts.
As long as Mr. Kovach remains civil and does not trespass certain limits (probably narrower than those of freedom of speech) then he should not be excluded; that is even (and maybe precisely because) what he stands for and the positions he expresses or advocates are not widely shared by those who read and enjoy this blog (me included).
Ms Balogh is of course the ultimate arbiter of who can and who cannot post on her blog. However, merely because, in your opinion, “he rarely illuminates the debate – and his contributions are just so off beam” are not good reasons for filtering him out.

I agree. Also, a mutual admiration society becomes somehow boring after a while.

Guest
September 4, 2012 12:11 pm

London Calling!

You are both right of course.

But Kovach has had enough rope to hang himself.

I take a dim view of his calling Eva a liar – quite directly in the above post.

I have been a Guardian reader most of my life and if you know that publication – it posits many points of view.

I like polemical argument – in fact sometimes I provoke it. It is all part of the thrust of debate.

And this is not a ‘mutual admiration’ society either – there are plenty of contrary thought-provoking views on here.

And also I too have welcomed the blogs favourite troll – Johnny Boy. And anyone else who does not have a hidden agenda.

But we have standards.

I stand by my request.

Regards

Charlie

Kingfisher
Guest
Kingfisher
September 4, 2012 12:38 pm

Mr Kovach is quite possibly nuttier than a fruit cake and has posted some sad nonsense. But I think the post Charlie is objecting to makes a not unreasonable point. Atlátszó.hu linked this blog because it wrongly accuses a certain Béla Varga of Mor of being identical with the owner of kuruc.info who has the same name. This is now discredited. Eva blames her source and says she has written a new article that corrects this. But the original article with the libelous claim has not been corrected or removed, which I find puzzling on ethical grounds, and so does Mr Kovach. In a sense, he is right in saying Eva is perpetuating a lie and some sort of retraction is in order. Or so it seems to me.

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