Comment by Anna Naghdalyan, Spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry of Armenia, on statements of the President of Azerbaijan made during the meeting with Director-General of ISESCO15 January, 2021
The statements of the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev made on January 13 during the meeting with Salim bin Mohammed Al-Malik, Director-General of ISESCO, once again demonstrate that the Armenian cultural heritage in the territories under the Azerbaijani control is seriously endangered, and the state of Azerbaijan cannot be the guarantor of the proper protection of cultural and religious heritage.
The distortion of the identity of the Armenian heritage is an attempt of cultural looting, which is also a gross violation of the relevant international legal instruments.
Thousands of Armenian religious and secular monuments were created centuries before Azerbaijan was established and have no relation to the Azerbaijani identity. The attempts to alienate these monuments from the Armenian people have no historical, religious or moral grounds.
It is noteworthy that in order to justify the destruction of the Armenian cross stones (khachkars) in Nakhijevan Azerbaijan also put forward the “thesis of Albanisation", and this demonstrates the perilousness of the practice of destroying and distorting the identity of the Armenian monuments.
The fake thesis of presenting the Christian heritage of Armenians or other peoples of the region as Caucasian Albanian has no serious circulation outside of Azerbaijan and is not perceived by the international academic community.
Notably, President Aliyev made this statement in the presence of the Director General of the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization thus trying to introduce a religious dimension to the issues of protection of cultural heritage. By undermining the efforts of the international community aimed at preserving Artsakh’s cultural heritage, Azerbaijan continues to hinder the access of the international specialized organizations, primarily UNESCO, to the region by accusing the latter of being biased. Meanwhile in fact, Azerbaijan is the one to speculate irresponsibly on the religious factor while Armenia has always pursued the policy of inter-religious dialogue and cooperation between civilizations, considering cultural heritage as a universal and common value.
The preservation of many Armenian historical-cultural and religious monuments that fell under Azerbaijani control must be an important part of the peace process, taking into account the numerous facts of systematic destruction of the Armenian cultural and religious heritage in the past. In this context, the Azerbaijani leadership and state propaganda machine must immediately put an end to the deplorable approach of misappropriation, distortion of the identity of Armenian churches, and at least demonstrate due respect towards cultural and religious monuments.
The misappropriation and distortion of the cultural values of the Armenian people, the violation of the rights of the Armenian people do not contribute to regional peace. In this regard the proper protection of religious sites, both from the physical and spiritual perspectives, can create preconditions for peace in the region.