NATO boss Anders fogh Rasmussen has slapped Baku on the wrist for pardoning the murderer of an Armenian army officer (and glorifying him, to boot), but the gesture appears to have left Yerevan unimpressed.
In this tough-spoken part of the world, “deep concern” is widely seen as a Western diplomatic term for “This was bad, but we are not going to do anything about it.” And subsequent tweets expressing NATO's appreciation of Azerbaijan's role in the Afghanistan campaign and of Baku's partnership with the Alliance would particularly not correct that impression.
Many Armenians believe that the Alliance bears some responsibility for the 2004 axe murder since it happened at a NATO seminar in Budapest. Rasmussen does not.
Arguably, at a time like this, whatever he said on his Armenia-Azerbaijan tour, the general secretary would be left having to balance on an extremely high wire. But the question is to what extent his presence gave both sides pause amidst their rush of rage or simply directed their anger at another target -- the international community itself.
Some Azerbaijani commentators, in a reflection of ongoing domestic debate about President Ilham Aliyev's pardon, expressed long-standing frustration with the Minsk Group discussions.
Armenia had its own thoughts. As Rasmussen jetted off to Baku, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan declared that the Safarov pardon was "an attempt to test the international community's reaction to Azerbaijan's unusual steps." (He himself later headed off to Nagorno Karabakh for the inauguration of de-facto leader Bako Saakian.)
How this chapter of the Karabakh conflict will end is anyone's guess, but don't look for the international community to go out on a limb at this point.