President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan in a meeting with a United Nations representative, once again, lied to the international community and accused Armenia of placing obstacles for a visit to Karabakh by UNESCO, the UN’s agency tasked with protecting cultural heritage, especially during an armed conflict.
During a meeting with U.N. Resident Coordinator in Azerbaijan Vladanka Andreeva on Tuesday, Aliyev took the opportunity to belittle the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs and asserted that Karabakh conflict is now over, since international mediators failed in the mission and his country ended the conflict through force.
He also claimed that Azerbaijan was calling for a UNESCO mission to visit Karabakh for 30 years, and blamed Armenia for creating delays for the mission. In fact, it has been Aliyev that has been refusing UNESCO and other international agencies to visit occupied territories of Artsakh, as Azerbaijani forces systematically dismantle Armenian monuments in an effort to erase all trace of Armenian heritage in the region.
“We can say that we had been calling them [UNESCO] for 30 years and they wouldn’t come. And after the war they decided to come. Therefore, we agreed to this and, as far as I know, the latest information was that the mission had already been created, but now Armenia is protesting again. That’s why the mission is delayed,” Aliyev said, as quoted by local media.
Yerevan responded to Aliyev’s unhinged accusations by reaffirming its support for a UNESCO fact-finding mission on Wednesday.
Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vahan Hunanyan told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Wednesday that the need for the immediate implementation of the UNESCO fact-finding mission arose after last year’s 44-day war in order to protect the Armenian cultural and religious heritage from the imminent danger of destruction in the territories that went under the control of Azerbaijan.
“Both during the hostilities and after the establishment of the ceasefire, there have been numerous documented cases of deliberate destruction of and vandalism against Armenian churches, other cultural and religious monuments by the Azerbaijani armed forces. Moreover, in parallel with the physical destruction of religious and cultural heritage sites of Artsakh [the Armenian name for Nagorno-Karabakh], we are witnessing unacceptable cases of falsification of historical facts, distortion of the identity and belonging of Armenian monuments, change of architectural appearance by the order of the top leadership of Azerbaijan,” he said.
Hunanyan added that in order to cover up cultural crimes, Azerbaijan has been blocking the visit of UNESCO experts for some time, while accusing the organization of bias. Stressing that the practice of creating obstacles for the implementation of the mission by the Azerbaijani authorities and the politicization of the issue continues, the Armenian Foreign Ministry reminded that as early as December 2020, UNESCO’s deputy director-general for cultural affairs stated that Azerbaijan was not giving its consent to the mission.
“Artsakh’s endangered cultural and religious heritage urgently needs international attention in order to properly preserve it and prevent cases of vandalism. The implementation of the UNESCO mission and a comprehensive study of the historical and cultural heritage will contribute to the efforts to preserve cultural heritage in the territories under the control of Azerbaijan and prevent possible negative developments,” Hunanyan said, emphasizing that Armenia wants the implementation of the mission as soon as possible and continues to make targeted efforts in this direction.