Artsakh foreign minister sends letters to UN Secretary General and UNESCO Director-General in connection with destruction of Armenian historical, religious and cultural heritage by Azerbaijan

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YEREVAN, January 26. /ARKA/.On January 26, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Artsakh David Babayan sent letters to the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay in connection with the systematic and deliberate destruction by the Azerbaijani authorities of the Armenian cultural heritage in the territories of the Republic of Artsakh under the occupation of Azerbaijan, which is a gross violation of international law, Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) Foreign Ministry said.

It said the letters present detailed facts on the consistent commitment of similar crimes by the Azerbaijani authorities, in the Soviet period and the following years, with the aim of partially or completely destroying any evidence of Armenian presence in the territories under Azerbaijani control.

In particular, it is noted that the most tragic fact in the practice of eradication of the Armenian cultural heritage was the deliberate destruction of several thousand medieval khachkars (cross-stones) at the Armenian cemetery of Old Jugha (Julfa) in Nakhijevan in 1997-2006.

The letters also state that during the Soviet period and Azerbaijani military aggression against the Republic of Artsakh in 1992-1994, no less than 167 Armenian churches, 8 Armenian monastic complexes, and 123 historical Armenian cemeteries were ruined, obliterated and completely destroyed by the Azerbaijani authorities. During the same period, some 2500 Armenian khachkars (cross-stones) and more than 10,000 Armenian tombstones were destroyed and used as building material.

The letter emphasized that such policy of Azerbaijan became more intensive during the military aggression unleashed against the Republic of Artsakh on September 27, 2020 and is still underway, which is a real threat of complete destruction of the Armenian cultural heritage in the territories under the Azerbaijani military occupation in the near future. In particular, attention is drawn to the fact that the Azerbaijani Armed Forces deliberately missile-struck Ghazanchetsots Christ the Saviour Cathedral, located in the town of Shushi, utilizing an optically-guided unmanned aerial vehicle—not once, but twice. It is also noted that numerous videos and photos are distributed regularly on the Internet by the servicemen of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, evidencing their deliberate destruction of monuments and artefacts of Armenian cultural heritage.

The Foreign Minister called on the heads of the international organizations to take effective steps to ensure the protection of Armenian historical, cultural, and religious monuments and to demand that the Azerbaijani authorities respect and fulfill their obligations to preserve Armenian cultural heritage that is currently under their control and to abandon their dissolute policy of its erasure and destruction.

Attached to the letters was the report of the Office of the Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Artsakh on vandalism against the Armenian cultural heritage in the occupied territories of the Republic of Artsakh and the threat of destruction of Armenian monuments․

On September 27, 2020, Azerbaijani armed forces, backed by Turkey and foreign mercenaries and terrorists, attacked Nagorno-Karabakh along the entire front line using rocket and artillery weapons, heavy armored vehicles, military aircraft and prohibited types of weapons such as cluster bombs and  phosphorus weapons.

After 44 days of the war, on November 9, the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a statement on the cessation of all hostilities. According to the document, the parties stopped at where they were at that time. The town of Shushi, the districts of Agdam, Kelbajar and Lachin were handed over to Azerbaijan, with the exception of a 5-kilometer corridor connecting Karabakh with Armenia.

A Russian peacekeeping contingent was deployed along the contact line in Karabakh and along the Lachin corridor. Internally displaced persons and refugees are returning to Karabakh and adjacent regions, prisoners of war, hostages and other detained persons and bodies of the dead are being exchanged.

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