The persistent challenges that the world faces today, ranging from armed conflicts to the impacts of climate change, underscore the imperative to redouble our joint efforts in all the fields of competence of UNESCO, Armenian Defense Minister Ararat Mirzoyan said at the 42nd session of the UNESCO General Conference.
“Armenia stands firmly behind UNESCO’s endeavors to protect cultural heritage, especially in the regions affected by conflicts and natural disasters and condemns any attacks on cultural symbols due to their diverse origins or identities,” he said.
“Amid our shared struggle to maintain the fragile peace in various corners of the world, while promoting the values of living together, it is with deep concern that I draw your attention to the dire situation in our region,” Minister Mirzoyan said.
“The 10 month-long blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh by Azerbaijan, humanitarian crisis, absence of food, medicine, gas and electricity supplies and, as a culmination, the large-scale military offensive and indiscriminate targeting of the civilian population and infrastructure resulted in forcible displacement and ethnic cleansing of the entire indigenous Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh, leaving behind their homes, shrines and the millennia-old cultural and religious heritage,” he noted.
The Foreign Minister said Armenia is currently facing a massive influx of more than 100 000 refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh, among them 30 thousand children, who fled their ancestral homeland in just a few days, under the fear of persecution and atrocity crimes.
“The Government of Armenia, in cooperation with the international organizations and partner states, has undertaken a number of measures to address the life-saving, protection and early recovery needs of the refugees. In this regard, I wish to extend Armenia’s gratitude to the UNESCO and its Director-General for the rapid deployment of the UNESCO emergency mission to Armenia for the assessment of educational needs of refugee children,” he stated.
“With regard to the cultural and religious heritage left in Nagorno-Karabakh, its protection from vandalism and looting is crucial. Since the fall of 2020 the Republic of Armenia has consistently alerted the international community on Azerbaijan’s state-led policy of destruction, desecration and appropriation of the vast religious and cultural heritage in and around Nagorno-Karabakh,” Minister Mirzoyan stressed.
“The legally binding order on the Provisional Measures issued by the International Court of Justice on 7 December 2021, compels Azerbaijan to “take all necessary measures to prevent and punish acts of vandalism and desecration affecting Armenian cultural heritage, including but not limited to churches and other places of worship, monuments, landmarks, cemeteries and artefacts”,” he added.
“Deployment of UNESCO’s independent fact-finding mission to Nagorno-Karabakh with the view of independent monitoring and mapping of the Armenian cultural heritage is a key prerequisite to prevent destruction or distortion of the Armenian cultural property, as was the case with the complete annihilation of the Armenian cultural heritage in Nakhijevan between 1997-2006,” the Foreign Minister emphasized.
In conclusion, he stressed Armenia’s unwavering support to the Organization in its efforts to foster a culture of peace and tolerance anchored on upholding and promoting human rights.