Education, science and search for knowledge have deep roots in the Armenian society, Armenia’s Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said at the General Policy Debate of the 39th Session of the UNESCO General Conference.
“In two years the State University of our capital Yerevan will mark its 100th anniversary. However, already 800 years ago the capital of the Cilician Armenian kingdom used to have a secular higher education institute, the University of Sis. Armenians have carried out these traditions throughout the centuries, including by founding schools in many places worldwide,” Minister Nalbandian said.
“This year marks the 300th anniversary of the Armenian Mekhitarist Congregation of San Lazzaro in Venice that was recognized as an academy by Emperor Napoleon. More than 200 years ago another famous school – the Lazarian Seminary opened its doors in Moscow and later became one of the two founding institutions of Moscow State Institute of International Relations,” the Foreign Minister said.
“Education is a strongest tool for boosting the values that this Organization adheres to. It is regrettable that some states abuse the education for contrary objectives, exploiting it for dissemination of nationalist hatred especially among the youth. There are many such examples in the textbooks of Azerbaijan, one of them teaching the children that Armenians are their genetic enemies. The 2016 report of the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance states: “Political leaders, educational institutions and media have continued using hate speech against Armenians; an entire generation of Azerbaijanis has now grown up listening to this hateful rhetoric”. It is rightly described in the Constitution of UNESCO that “wars begin in the minds of men”. The societies will not be prepared for reconciliation unless the defense of peace is constructed in their minds,” Edward Nalbandian said.
“As great German writer Heinrich Heine wrote “Where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people”. The books of the renowned Azerbaijani novelist were burnt on the streets of Baku just for speaking the truth about Armenian massacres and calling for reconciliation. He wrote а story about his home village in Nakhijevan that during his childhood used to have twelve churches. All of them, together with numerous other Armenian sacred sites and cemeteries in Nakhijevan and all over Azerbaijan were wiped out in 1990s and 2000s. In the same manner thousands delicately carved medieval cross-stones of the Armenian cemetery in Jugha were bulldozed under the watchful eyes of the Azerbaijani authorities. The site was transformed to a shooting range,” Armenia’s top diplomat stated.
“After ethnically cleansing the Armenian population of Azerbaijan, now Baku aims at wiping out even the memory of several millennia old Armenian presence, every traces of the indigenous Armenian culture and history of the region. Baku erases the past merely because it does not fit the present day self-portrayed image of Azerbaijan, probably following George Orwell’s famous words on “who controls the present, controls the past”. Those who control Azerbaijan today think they can rewrite the history to legitimize their present xenophobic policies,” Minister Nalbandian added.
“Historically being situated on the crossroads of different civilizations Armenia has cultivated deeply rooted traditions of coexistence and respect towards other cultures and religions. That is why Armenia preserves a rich cultural heritage that includes among others the Hellenistic era temple, some of the oldest churches in the world, medieval Jewish cemetery, 18th century mosque and soon will host the world’s largest Yazidi temple,” Edward Nalbandian said.
“The cooperation on preservation of the cultural heritage has been among the main pillars proclaimed by UNESCO. It has a very special meaning for the Armenian nation, since we have monuments all over the world built by the Armenians communities in about one hundred countries and particularly many in the countries of the region,” he stated.
“Our neighbors have displayed different approaches towards the preservation of Armenian historical heritage. There is a good cooperation with Iran that takes proper care of the Armenian monuments situated on its territory in a sharp contrast with neighboring Azerbaijan, but also Turkey, where numerous cultural monuments that were of universal value, have been lost forever. In this regard I would like to reiterate Armenia’s interest for the participation of our experts in the excavation and restoration of archaeological sites in Turkey, in such places as Ani, the Armenian medieval capital,” the Foreign Minister said.
“We are also very much concerned of the attacks on the Armenian monuments and sacred sites in war-torn Syria. We strongly believe that the post conflict rehabilitation in Syria should reaffirm the rights of ethnic minorities, including Armenians, on their religious and cultural heritage,” the Armenian Foreign Minister added.
Edward Nalbandian stated that Armenia strongly believes in this mission of UNESCO and stands ready to continue its contribution to the realization of these goals.