Remarks by Ara Aivazian, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia on the occasion of 4th Ministerial Meeting of the Ancient Civilizations Forum

15 December, 2020


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear friends,

I would like to convey my gratitude to the Government of Peru for convening this 4th Ministerial meeting. 

I would also like to welcome the participation of the United Mexican States as a new member of the Ancient Civilizations Forum.

What brings us together today is the vast history and rich cultural heritage of every nation here. This Forum has become a unique platform to cherish the histories and values that our civilizations have accumulated throughout the past millennia.

Armenia, as a cradle of centuries-old traditions and civilizational heritage, appreciates the important role of the Ancient Civilizations Forum as a platform for cultural dialogue and cooperation among member states and beyond. The turbulent and challenging year that we have faced has proven that now constructive dialogue and joint efforts matter more than ever. It has also reminded us that the heritage and wisdom of our ancient civilizations remain alive and relevant in today’s globalized world. Thus, today we have the opportunity to draw lessons and inspiration from our heritage and move forward together.

This Ancient Civilizations Forum allows us to prioritize the promotion of cultural diversity and peace. It enables us to reiterate our commitment to the goals of tolerance and diversity as prerequisites for fostering a culture of peace. 

Distinguished colleagues,
In an important platform like this, we cannot turn a blind eye to the alarming events unfolding in our region.

While the international community focused on the response and recovery from the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, on September 27 Azerbaijan launched pre-planned large-scale aggression against the Republic of Artsakh, also known as Nagorno-Karabakh. In this war, Azerbaijan was directly supported by Turkey which transported mercenaries and foreign terrorist fighters to Azerbaijan and deployed them against the people of Artsakh.

As a result of this aggression thousands of objects of Armenian cultural heritage fell under the control of Azerbaijani armed forces. Nagorno-Karabakh has an extremely rich cultural and religious heritage with several thousands of monuments providing material evidence for the long history of Armenians in the region. Early-Christian churches from the 4th century and many archaeological sites are architectural wonders with ancient inscriptions, murals, and sculptures integral to the Armenian history and its contribution to global cultural heritage.

Armenia has ample reasons to believe that Azerbaijan will target the evidence for our millennia-old indigenous connection to this land by intentionally destroying the Armenian monuments and cultural sites. This threat is well justified, given the multiple precedents of Azerbaijan’s intentional destruction of the Armenian cultural heritage. During the course of this war, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces within a few hours struck twice the 19th century Holy Savior (Ghazanchetsots) Cathedral - a historic and religious symbol of the city of Shushi by precise striking drones attesting to the intentional nature of the attack. The same Cathedral and the St. John the Baptist church (Kanach zham) were vandalized and partially destroyed only a few days after the establishment of the ceasefire exemplifying the disrespect and threat towards the Armenian cultural heritage.

Azerbaijan has also been responsible for systematic cultural destruction for decades. Perhaps the most notorious act was the destruction of several thousand giant engraved cross-stones, called in Armenian khachkars, and tombstones of the medieval Armenian cemetery of Old Jugha in Nakhichevan, bulldozed by the Azerbaijani army during peacetime and far from the conflict zone. 15 years ago this month, the destruction of in total 89 medieval churches, 5,840 ornate cross-stones, and 22,000 historical tombstones was completed. There is sufficient evidence, including photos and videos, documenting this barbaric act.

Targeting cultural heritage sites, especially in war situations, is strictly prohibited by several international conventions, including the UNESCO Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Protocols. Armenia welcomes UNESCO’s decision to dispatch a technical assistance mission to Nagorno-Karabakh.

We acknowledge the value of cultural heritage and recognize that the loss of any item constitutes a harmful impoverishment of the heritage of all the nations of the world, and not only of the nation to which the cultural property belongs. This malicious intentional destruction of cultural heritage sites by Azerbaijan is a challenge not only to Armenia, but to the whole  civilized humanity, and it must be strongly condemned. 


It is critical today to promote a culture of peace to face the escalating aggression and violence that we have been witnessing around the world. The culture of peace can only be founded on strong international cooperation and the Ancient Civilizations Forum is an important platform in this regard as it brings together countries with thousand-year-old ancestral cultures and vast tangible and intangible heritage. 

A culture of peace is also indispensable for sustainable development. Culture has a transformative power as it is an essential component of human development, a source of identity, innovation, and creativity for all. A culture-based approach to development is key to fulfilling the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, and in particular, to overcome the effects of the current COVID-19 crisis.

Furthermore, on a more positive note, we are currently witnessing unprecedented international focus on the recognition of the importance of cultural heritage protection for the preservation of international peace and the promotion of economic growth. These attempts must be strengthened and complemented.

In this context, we suggest the establishment of a network of cultural institutions, consisting of museums, historical and cultural reserves, as well as tourism organizations, that will allow us to better highlight the tangible and intangible cultural heritage and thus contribute to the development of sustainable tourism and promotion of economic recovery. Close cooperation between the member states of the Forum within international organizations, particularly the UNESCO, regular consultations and possible joint initiatives by our Permanent Delegates to UNESCO on issues related to the protection of cultural heritage may serve this purpose as well.

Armenia is willing to contribute to these global efforts, prioritizing the protection of cultural heritage, the promotion of humanitarian behavior, and the formation of respect for cultural diversity. These efforts must be combined with measures aiming to foster the growth of cultural industries of member states, both bilaterally and in collaboration with multilateral institutions such as UNESCO.

Finally, we welcome the adoption of the Ministerial Outcome Declaration of this meeting, which will give new impetus to our future joint initiatives and enhance our fruitful cooperation within this format.

Armenia remains strongly committed to the ideals and principles of the Forum and will continue to be actively involved in all joint efforts in this regard. 

Thank you.

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