Valley Village, CA – U.S. Rep. Howard L. Berman, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote Secretary of State Clinton today and called for Azerbaijan’s suspension from the NATO Partnership for Peace Program and ending arms sales to Azerbaijan. Berman wrote the letter following the recent pardoning of Azerbaijani axe-murderer Ramil Safarov and his promotion to the rank of major in the Azerbaijani military.

The letter follows:

Dear Madam Secretary,

The recent pardoning by President Aliyev of the Azerbaijani axe-murderer Ramil Safarov -- and his promotion to the rank of major in the Azerbaijani military -- was indeed appalling. Aliyev's action makes a mockery of justice and shows contempt for NATO and its members, as well as for NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PfP) program and all states that participate in it. The State Department appropriately issued a strong condemnation of Azerbaijan's pardon. In my view, however, the abhorrent nature of this pardon, as well as the gruesome nature of the original crime and the context in which it occurred, demands something more. It demands a strong and meaningful response.

Accordingly, in light of the fact that this unprovoked and horrific murder occurred at a PfP event, I urge you to arrange for a joint protest to President Aiyev by all members of NATO. Second, I urge that NATO suspend Azerbaijan from all participation in PfP events unless and until Aliyev rescinds the pardon and promotion and re-incarcerates the killer, or returns him to Hungary, to serve the remainder of his life sentence. Further, I strongly encourage you immediately to halt all military assistance and arms transfers to Azerbaijan. President Aliyev's action, in its callous disregard for Armenian life, obliterates any near-term hopes for building trust between Armenia and Azerbaijan. It thus undermines attempts to foster peace in the volatile Caucasus region. It likewise serves to remind us that a peaceful resolution regarding Nagorno Karabakh must provide adequate security safeguards against Azerbaijani aggression.

I look forward to your response.


U.S. Congressman Howard L. Berman