Azerbaijan has been responsible for systematic cultural destruction for decades, Armenian Foreign Minister Ara Aivazian told the ministerial conference on the occasion of 4th Ministerial Meeting of the Ancient Civilizations Forum
“While the international community focused on the response and recovery from the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, on September 27 Azerbaijan launched pre-planned large-scale aggression against the Republic of Artsakh, also known as Nagorno-Karabakh. In this war, Azerbaijan was directly supported by Turkey which transported mercenaries and foreign terrorist fighters to Azerbaijan and deployed them against the people of Artsakh,” Minister Aivazian said.
“As a result of this aggression thousands of objects of Armenian cultural heritage fell under the control of Azerbaijani armed forces. Nagorno-Karabakh has an extremely rich cultural and religious heritage with several thousands of monuments providing material evidence for the long history of Armenians in the region. Early-Christian churches from the 4th century and many archaeological sites are architectural wonders with ancient inscriptions, murals, and sculptures integral to the Armenian history and its contribution to global cultural heritage,” the Minister noted.
He said “Armenia has ample reasons to believe that Azerbaijan will target the evidence for our millennia-old indigenous connection to this land by intentionally destroying the Armenian monuments and cultural sites.”
“This threat is well justified, given the multiple precedents of Azerbaijan’s intentional destruction of the Armenian cultural heritage. During the course of this war, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces within a few hours struck twice the 19th century Holy Savior (Ghazanchetsots) Cathedral – a historic and religious symbol of the city of Shushi by precise striking drones attesting to the intentional nature of the attack. The same Cathedral and the St. John the Baptist church (Kanach zham) were vandalized and partially destroyed only a few days after the establishment of the ceasefire exemplifying the disrespect and threat towards the Armenian cultural heritage,” the Foreign Minister stated.
He stressed that Azerbaijan has also been responsible for systematic cultural destruction for decades.
“Perhaps the most notorious act was the destruction of several thousand giant engraved cross-stones, called in Armenian khachkars, and tombstones of the medieval Armenian cemetery of Old Jugha in Nakhichevan, bulldozed by the Azerbaijani army during peacetime and far from the conflict zone. 15 years ago this month, the destruction of in total 89 medieval churches, 5,840 ornate cross-stones, and 22,000 historical tombstones was completed. There is sufficient evidence, including photos and videos, documenting this barbaric act,” the Minister said.
He stressed that targeting cultural heritage sites, especially in war situations, is strictly prohibited by several international conventions, including the UNESCO Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Protocols.
The Feign Minister said Armenia welcomes UNESCO’s decision to dispatch a technical assistance mission to Nagorno-Karabakh.
“We acknowledge the value of cultural heritage and recognize that the loss of any item constitutes a harmful impoverishment of the heritage of all the nations of the world, and not only of the nation to which the cultural property belongs. This malicious intentional destruction of cultural heritage sites by Azerbaijan is a challenge not only to Armenia, but to the whole civilized humanity, and it must be strongly condemned,” Ara Aivazian stated.