Destruction of Armenian cultural heritage of Nagorno Karabakh raised at UNESCO

Azerbaijan is constantly politicizing the cultural platform of UNESCO, making groundless and false accusations against Armenia, Harutyun Vanyan, head of the Department for Protection of History and Cultural Monuments of the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport, said at the 45th extended session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

He noted that this behavior contradicts the organization’s values and principles.

The Armenian representative also objected to the Azerbaijani proposal to include the Azokhi and Verin Tagher caves in Nagorno-Karabakh in the preliminary list of Azerbaijan. He noted that the caves are located in the Hadrut region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which came under Azerbaijani control as a result of the war unleashed by the latter. Since then, he said, Azerbaijan has embarked on a state-sponsored cultural genocide of the thousand-year-old Armenian cultural heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh, with numerous documented cases of destruction of cultural sites, desecration and usurpation of Armenian identity.

Satellite photos of the recently destroyed Saint Sargis Church in the village of Mokhrenes, Hadrut region, among others, serve as a vivid example of Azerbaijan’s disregard not only for Armenian cultural heritage, but also for the decision of the International Court of Justice, which has obliged Azerbaijan to “take all necessary measures to prevent and punish acts of vandalism and desecration against Armenian cultural heritage, including churches and other places of worship, monuments, landmarks, cemeteries and artifacts.”

The Armenian delegate also cited the resolution adopted by the European Parliament on March 10, 2022, in which the organization condemns Azerbaijan for the destruction of cultural heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh and the spread of Armenophobia in Azerbaijan.

Harutyun Vanyan noted that until now Azerbaijan refuses to grant a UNESCO fact-finding mission the right of access to Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent territories to carry out the inventory of the most important cultural values, which was proposed by the Director-General of UNESCO in November 2020 as a prerequisite for the effective protection of the region’s heritage. “Along with the inhumane blockade of Nagorno Karabakh since December 12, 2022, these actions of Azerbaijan testify to the genocidal intent to destroy the indigenous Armenian population and erase any trace of its cultural heritage,” he said.

The urgent need for the deployment of the UNESCO mission was also emphasized and Armenia’s readiness to cooperate with UNESCO on this matter was emphasized.

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