Ancient Armenian cultural and religious heritage in and around Artsakh vulnerable, Armenian Deputy FM tells Ancient Civilizations Forum

Պrotecting the cultural heritage of ancient civilizations and its transmission to future generations through continuous communication and cooperation is crucial as ever, Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Vahe Gevorgyan said at the 5th Ministerial Meeting of the Ancient Civilizations Forum.

“Cultural heritage is a driving force of identity and historical memory for societies. We strongly believe that the only way to protect global heritage is to apply a system based on the principles of dialogue, respect for cultural diversity and cultivation of peace. As a platform promoting dialogue and collaboration, this Forum, indeed, can play an essential role in meeting today’s global challenges and proposing constructive responses. The fulfillment of this objective requires joint efforts and commitment to encourage peace and sustainable development. Armenia is keen to contribute to the actions in this regard,” he noted.  

The deputy FM emphasized that “cooperation on preserving cultural heritage has a special meaning for the Armenian people, noting that we have monuments worldwide built by the Armenian communities in about one hundred countries.

“The care and attention that Armenian cultural property has been receiving are omnipresent. For instance, Iran is home to many Armenian monuments in our region. We appreciate that the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has taken responsibility to protect them. The joint inscription of the 65 years old Pilgrimage to Iran’s Saint Thadeus Armenian Monastery on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO in 2020 is the latest example of existing and effective collaboration in this regard,” Vahe Grigoryan stated.  

“The richness of our nations’ historical memory shapes the very essence of civilization and moral values of our countries. Unfortunately, the number of cases of intentional destruction of the numerous cultural heritage sites due to ethnic or religious intolerance is progressively increasing and cultural property representing ancient civilizations is particularly endangered by those who consider these artifacts and history behind them as a threat,” he added.

He stressed that as never before, protection of the artifacts of ancient civilizations requires concentrated efforts of the international community.

“Ancient Armenian cultural and religious heritage located in and around Nagorno-Karabakh is particularly vulnerable in this regard. It is with this grave concern that Armenia tries to bring different international actors together in order to rescue 1500 objects of historical and cultural property, including ancient monasteries, historic quarters, burial and archeological sites,” the diplomat noted.

He noted that there are two important undertakings that deserve to be mentioned here. 

The Deputy Foreign Minister reminded that upon request of Armenia, the International Court of Justice ordered Azerbaijan to “take all necessary measures to prevent and punish acts of vandalism and desecration towards Armenian cultural heritage, including churches and other places of worship, monuments, landmarks, cemeteries and artifacts.”

“This legally binding ruling is unprecedented in many senses. In the name of justice and humanity, the world highest court made a verdict by which it protects the right of existence of an ancient civilization. This order should be implemented with the involvement of Armenian indigenous people of the region without any due and reservation,” he said.  

“We also appreciate UNESCO’s efforts to ensure the dispatching of an independent expert mission to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone, which Azerbaijan, unfortunately, continues to block up to date, creating artificial obstacles for the effective engagement of UNESCO,” Grigoryan continued.

“We acknowledge that cultural heritage constitutes tourism resources and as such, appropriate tourism management can contribute to safeguarding that very heritage and promoting sustainable development. Armenia is willing to contribute to the global efforts, prioritizing the protection of cultural heritage and development of sustainable tourism, in forming respect for cultural diversity. The Republic of Armenia is currently in the process of developing a strategy for 2025 in the field of culture, which, among other aspects, addresses the conservation and safeguarding of cultural monuments,” he noted.

“We think that the close cooperation between member states of the Forum within international organizations, particularly the UNESCO, regular consultations and possible joint initiatives on issues related to the protection of cultural heritage may serve this purpose as well,” Vahe Grigoryan said.

Moreover, he said, “we see a huge potential in developing collaboration with experts from the member states of this Forum. In this regard, we welcome the outcome of the two expert meetings held in May and October 2021.” “Notably, we think that creating a committee of experts from the Forum of Ancient Civilizations will allow member states to regularly share experiences on the preservation and restoration of cultural heritage, sustainable tourism, and restitution of cultural property.”

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