Statement by Deputy Foreign Minister of of Armenia Vahe Gevorgyan at the Ministerial Meeting of the Ancient Civilizations Forum

22 September, 2023

Mr. Chair,

We thank the Islamic Republic of Iran for conveying the Ministerial of the Ancient Civilizations Forum on the sidelines of the 78thsession of the UN General Assembly, which is an important opportunity to review the progress in our cooperation on promoting the common historical and cultural heritage and identify the gaps in this regard.

Armenia values the Forum as a pivotal platform for cultural dialogue and cooperation, capable of addressing the significant challenges confronting our increasingly globalized world. We are committed to actively supporting and contributing to collective endeavors aimed at bolstering intercultural dialogue, mutual understanding and tolerance.

Preservation of tangible and intangible cultural heritage of humankind is key element in promoting effective policies aimed at strengthening peace, sustainable development, social cohesion and tolerance, non-discrimination and human rights.

Armed conflicts in different parts of the world have devastating impact on cultural and religious monuments. Improving data collection, introduction of reliable monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, fostering partnerships and information sharing, as well as use of digital and satellite technologies and innovative solutions, create a vast toolkit of instruments to help to protect cultural heritage and prevent cultural vandalism.

In the Tiwanaku Declaration on 13 July 2018 the members of the Forum have deplored the fact that armed conflicts have become a serious threat to the integrity of the world heritage monuments. As stated in the Baghdad Declaration of 4 December, 2022, our nations share deep concerns regarding the destruction, looting and appropriation of cultural property, including religious sites.

In this regard, Armenia believes that ACF member states should exert additional efforts to promote cooperation within prominent global organizations, such as the UNESCO. There is an untapped potential in promoting the remarkable cultural heritage of our ancient civilizations, as the shared wealth of all humankind. Armenia stands ready to pursuing joint initiatives together with the members of the Forum within the framework of the UNESCO and other multilateral fora.

Mr. Chair,

Regrettably, the Armenian cultural heritage faces ongoing destruction, desecration and appropriation in the territories in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, which fell under Azerbaijan's control following the 2020 war. Through its relentless campaign to erase Armenia's civilizational presence in the region, Azerbaijan seeks to negate the very essence of this heritage.

The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage sites by Azerbaijan represents a challenge not just to Armenia but to all of humanity. It demands unequivocal condemnation and a resolute response. We deeply appreciate UNESCO's proposal to dispatch an independent expert mission to Nagorno-Karabakh, a mission that Azerbaijan has thus far obstructed.

The cultural genocide on the basis of ethnic and religious hatred committed against the heritage of the indigenous Armenian population is part of a wider picture of state-led policy of eradication of Armenians in their ancestral homeland through creating conditions incompatible with life.

As I speak, the people of Nagorno-Karabakh face the threat to their very existence in the lands of their ancestors. On 19 September Azerbaijan unleashed yet another unprovoked large-scale aggression against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. Massive and targeted shelling of Stepanakert and almost all other cities and settlements of Nagorno-Karabakh with use of heavy weaponry has caused major destruction and heavy human losses, with dozens of killed and hundreds of wounded, including among civilians. Among the killed 7 civilians there are two children and three women.

This new wave of Azerbaijani aggression is preceded by the illegal blockade of the Lachin corridor, the only humanitarian lifeline connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia and the outer world since 12 December 2022. This inhumane blockade has resulted in a full-fledged humanitarian crisis and a real threat of starvation with a particularly gruesome impact on the most vulnerable.

The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, Global Action against Mass Atrocity Crimes (GAAMAC), the first Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Juan Ernesto Mendez, the former Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Luis Moreno Ocampo and many others have alerted on the risk of commission of genocide.

We hope, that through our collective efforts and unwavering dedication to the values of humanity, peace, and the protection of cultural heritage, we will be able to make a meaningful contribution to the global efforts aimed at averting the imminent humanitarian catastrophe and ethnic cleansing in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Mr. Chair,

As a nation located on the crossroad of different civilizations with ages-old traditions of mutually enriching interaction with different nations and cultures Armenia has consistently expressed its readiness to collaborate with international partners in the fair implementation of measures designed to protect cultural heritage and to invest in global efforts to promote intercultural dialogue and cultural diversity.

In conclusion, I wish to reiterate Armenia’s commitment to the cooperation with partner countries of the Ancient Civilizations Forum to jointly promote and protect the common heritage, which is of irreplaceable value to the entire mankind as unique expression of history, identity and cultural memory.

I thank you for attention.

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