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“I believe Vardanyan can play a significant role in the region’s events. While another full-scale war is brewing in the Middle East, Karabakh is gradually fading into the background.

At first glance, everything has calmed down: Azerbaijan is starting to establish a new life in the region; it has launched restoration work, as well as construction of housing and infrastructure. No ethnic cleansing reports have been confirmed: Armenians willing to leave are free to go, they don’t have to run barefoot, without luggage under whizzing bullets like Azerbaijanis in the 1990s.

That being said, Ruben Vardanyan is still in a Baku prison. Having given the situation some thought, I believe that Baku has a trump card capable of solving several problems at once — granting pardon to Vardanyan.

Firstly, Ruben Vardanyan is not a killing squad member of the First Karabakh War. As loud as it may sound, he is a world-renowned businessman and philanthropist with many charitable projects, who, on the wave of idealistic patriotism, rushed to help his people. Given his influence, Vardanyan can be quite effectively exchanged for, let’s say, actual murderers deserving punishment.

Secondly, the pardon destroys the narrative built by Baku’s enemies about “the cruel and barbaric country of Azerbaijan, punishing everyone it can reach” — there is guilt, there is punishment for the most vicious criminals, but there is also generosity for those who cannot be called murderers or genocide architects. Due to his prominence, Vardanyan’s pardon would have a powerful effect in the global media, forcing many people to rethink the imposed assessments of the situation.

Finally, the pardon would once again show who is working toward signing a peace treaty and being constructive, and who is after retaining power through insane diplomatic somersaults. It is another argument for Western friends to put pressure on Nikol Pashinyan and move closer to signing a peace treaty — which also would benefit other countries of the region and Russia (for which it is vital to start a new chapter of relations with the South Caucasus states when both Azerbaijan and Armenia are considered allies).

Pardoning Ruben Vardanyan would help reach several more goals than a prison sentence — both in terms of politics, reputation and diplomacy. In my opinion, this is the right decision.”

Alexey Naumov, political expert