Armenia’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday condemned and deplored reports indicating that Azerbaijan, which currently occupies Shushi in Artsakh, has begun dismantling the Ghazachetsots Cathedral, which was heavily damaged when Azerbaijani forces bombed the iconic church during the war last year.
On Monday, Artsakh’s Human Rights Defender raised the alarm by posting a picture of the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral that is surrounded by scaffolding in what appears to be construction work in progress. The dome of the church and other distinguishing Armenian elements on the building appear to have been erased.
“Among the myriad war crimes committed by the Azerbaijani armed forces during the aggression against Artsakh is the deliberate targeting of Shushi’s Ghazanchetsots Cathedral with high precision weapons twice within a day, followed by the act of vandalism after the ceasefire was established,” explained Armenia’s Foreign Ministry in a statement in which it deplored Azerbaijan’s continued destruction of Armenian places of worship in territories that have come under Azerbaijan’s control as a result of the November 9 agreement.
“It is worth noting that Azerbaijan has taken these steps at the Shushi Cathedral without consulting with the Armenian Apostolic Church,” said the Foreign Ministry, which said that actions were a “clear violation” of the rights of Armenians.
“It is equally concerning that Azerbaijan has started to change the architectural appearance of the church before a UNESCO expert assessment mission. It is obvious that Azerbaijan is deliberately blocking the entry of UNESCO experts to the endangered Armenian cultural heritage sites, on the one hand to cover the war crimes it has committed, and on the other hand to change the historical-architectural integrity of the monument,” warned Armenia’s Foreign Ministry.
“No action can be carried out at the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral, the numerous Armenian historical and cultural monuments and places of worship in the territories of Artsakh under the Azerbaijani occupation, without documentation by international experts—first and foremost UNESCO—and their active involvement in restoration efforts. The Shushi Cathedral is one of the important centers of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Artsakh, it should serve as a place of worship,” added Armenia’s Foreign Ministry.
The Artsakh Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church also strongly condemned the dismantling of the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral and called on the international community to call Azerbaijan to task for its systematic destruction of Armenian monuments.
“It’s obvious that Azerbaijan is making every effort to completely eliminate the Armenian spiritual-cultural heritage from the territory of Artsakh, sometimes making unsuccessful attempts to eliminate the traces of the Armenian Christian heritage from Artsakh under the pretext of renovation,” said the Artsakh Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church in a statement issued on Tuesday.