Statement by Vahe Gevorgyan, Deputy-Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia, at the 5th Ministerial Meeting of the Ancient Civilizations Forum17 December, 2021
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to express our gratitude to the Government of Peru for convening this 5th Ministerial meeting of the Ancient Civilizations Forum.
What gathered us today and unites us is the vast history, culture, traditions and values of our ancient civilizations that we collected and accumulated throughout centuries. The Ancient Civilizations Forum is an important platform to synergize our ancestral knowledge and wisdom to address the extraordinary challenges that the globalized world faces today, such as armed conflicts, violent extremism, the impact of climate change․
In the context of these complex challenges, our shared objective of protecting the cultural heritage of ancient civilizations and its transmission to future generations through continuous communication and cooperation is crucial as ever.
Cultural heritage is a driving force of identity and historical memory for societies. We strongly believe that the only way to protect global heritage is to apply a system based on the principles of dialogue, respect for cultural diversity and cultivation of peace. As a platform promoting dialogue and collaboration, this Forum, indeed, can play an essential role in meeting today’s global challenges and proposing constructive responses. The fulfillment of this objective requires joint efforts and commitment to encourage peace and sustainable development. Armenia is keen to contribute to the actions in this regard.
Cooperation on preserving cultural heritage has a special meaning for the Armenian people. We have monuments worldwide built by the Armenian communities in about one hundred countries.
The care and attention that Armenian cultural property has been receiving are omnipresent. For instance, Iran is home to many Armenian monuments in our region. We appreciate that the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has taken responsibility to protect them. The joint inscription of the 65 years old Pilgrimage to Iran’s Saint Thadeus Armenian Monastery on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO in 2020 is the latest example of existing and effective collaboration in this regard.
The richness of our nations’ historical memory shapes the very essence of civilization and moral values of our countries. Unfortunately, the number of cases of intentional destruction of the numerous cultural heritage sites due to ethnic or religious intolerance is progressively increasing and cultural property representing ancient civilizations is particularly endangered by those who consider these artifacts and history behind them as a threat.
Thus today, as never before, protection of the artifacts of ancient civilizations requires concentrated efforts of the international community.
Ancient Armenian cultural and religious heritage located in and around Nagorno-Karabakh is particularly vulnerable in this regard. It is with this grave concern that Armenia tries to bring different international actors together in order to rescue 1500 objects of historical and cultural property, including ancient monasteries, historic quarters, burial and archeological sites.
There are two important undertakings that deserve to be mentioned here.
Upon request of Armenia, the International Court of Justice ordered Azerbaijan to “take all necessary measures to prevent and punish acts of vandalism and desecration towards Armenian cultural heritage, including churches and other places of worship, monuments, landmarks, cemeteries and artifacts.”
This legally binding ruling is unprecedented in many senses. In the name of justice and humanity, the world highest court made a verdict by which it protects the right of existence of an ancient civilization. This order should be implemented with the involvement of Armenian indigenous people of the region without any due and reservation.
We also appreciate UNESCO’s efforts to ensure the dispatching of an independent expert mission to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone, which Azerbaijan, unfortunately, continues to block up to date, creating artificial obstacles for the effective engagement of UNESCO.
In this regard, we agree with the conclusion of the two expert meetings of this Forum stipulating that the protection of cultural heritage should be an important part of the peace process.
We are witnessing the growing role of cultural heritage with its essential economic and social impact on the peace and security of communities as a fundamental prerequisite for sustainable development. In particular, in conflict situations, recognizing cultural identities, proper heritage conservation, and fighting against illicit trafficking based on shared values may foster tolerance and respect among different communities, which is a precondition for a society’s peaceful development. We believe that a culture-based approach to development is essential to fulfilling the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
We acknowledge that cultural heritage constitutes tourism resources and as such, appropriate tourism management can contribute to safeguarding that very heritage and promoting sustainable development. Armenia is willing to contribute to the global efforts, prioritizing the protection of cultural heritage and development of sustainable tourism, in forming respect for cultural diversity. The Republic of Armenia is currently in the process of developing a strategy for 2025 in the field of culture, which, among other aspects, addresses the conservation and safeguarding of cultural monuments.
We think that the close cooperation between member states of the Forum within international organizations, particularly the UNESCO, regular consultations and possible joint initiatives on issues related to the protection of cultural heritage may serve this purpose as well.
Moreover, we see a huge potential in developing collaboration with experts from the member states of this Forum. In this regard, we welcome the outcome of the two expert meetings held in May and October 2021. Notably, we think that creating a committee of experts from the Forum of Ancient Civilizations will allow member states to regularly share experiences on the preservation and restoration of cultural heritage, sustainable tourism, and restitution of cultural property.
And finally, we very much welcome the proposed elements for a roadmap of the Forum and express our readiness to contribute to our joint efforts in this regard.
We are looking forward to the upcoming ministerial Forum, which will be kindly hosted by Iraq and committed to staying in close communication and collaboration.