Armenia and Hungary have agreed to restore diplomatic ties, which were cut following the extradition of Ramil Safarov to Azerbaijan in 2012. Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and his Hungarian counterpart Péter Szijjártó reached the agreement on the sidelines of an OSCE summit in Poland on December 1. They expressed “their intention to open a new chapter in their relations based on mutual trust and respect toward international law,” according to a statement from both foreign ministries. Safarov brutally murdered Armenian lieutenant Gurgen Margaryan with an axe in his sleep in 2004, while both men were attending the NATO Partnership for Peace program in Budapest. Safarov was sentenced to life in prison yet returned to Azerbaijan after serving eight years in prison in Hungary. Upon his arrival in Baku, Safarov was pardoned by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, promoted to major and awarded eight years’ compensation and an apartment.
Azerbaijan and Turkey have concluded joint military exercises near the border with Iran. The exercises, which were announced by the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry on December 5, took place weeks after Iran held large-scale military exercises near Azerbaijan’s exclave Nakhichevan and outlying districts of Artsakh captured by Azerbaijan during the 2020 Artsakh War. A military news site in Azerbaijan connected to the government said that the exercises are a “sharp message to Iran, warning its leadership about any attempt to speak with Azerbaijan in the language of force and threats.” Tensions between Iran and Azerbaijan have been on the rise, as Iran has publicly warned Azerbaijan against violating Armenia’s sovereignty. “An enemy is an enemy for both of us. There should be no doubt about this,” Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said while visiting the site of the exercise on December 6.
Several thousand supporters of former President Mikheil Saakashvili gathered in downtown Tbilisi on December 3 to demand his release from prison. Saakashvili’s health has been deteriorating since he was arrested in October 2021, in which time he has taken two hunger strikes. The protest took place days after a Tbilisi-based torture watchdog warned that Saakashvili could die if he does not receive medical treatment outside of Georgia. The protest was marred by political divisions within Saakashvili’s United National Movement (UNM) party. It was organized by Levan Khabeishvili, a politician who has been trying to unseat UNM chair Nika Melia. Melia attended the protest, yet stood at a distance from its organizers and did not make a speech.