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September 22, 2017

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Armenian Parliament cuts ties with Hungary officials

YEREVAN, Armenia -- Armenia's Parliament has terminated all ties with Hungary's legislators to protest the country's decision to repatriate an Azerbaijani military officer who murdered an Armenian soldier in 2004.

The officer, Lt. Ramil Safarov, was sentenced to life for killing the Armenian while both were attending a NATO course in Hungary. After being freed, the officer was pardoned upon returning home Friday. Hours later, Armenia broke diplomatic relations with Hungary.

Armenia's Parliament voted 96-1 on Wednesday night to end ties with Hungary's Parliament, saying in a statement that Hungarian authorities "are also responsible" for the pardoning.

Tensions are strong between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region of Azerbaijan controlled by Armenian troops and ethnic Armenian forces since 1994. International negotiators said the pardoning harms peace efforts there.

On Thursday U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon implicitly criticized Azerbaijan for pardoning and freeing Safarov, despite having promised Hungary that his life sentence would be enforced. U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky expressed Ban's concern in New York. Nesirky quoted Ban as saying all U.N. members have a responsibility "to adhere to international standards and principles of rule of law in criminal cases in order to ensure accountability and fight impunity."

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