Azerbaijan sends letter about Armenian vandalism to UN Sec-Gen
Armenia’s wantonly destructive conduct in relation to Azerbaijani cultural heritage constitutes a flagrant violation of international law, Azerbaijan’s Permanent Representative to the UN Yashar Aliyev said in a letter addressed to the organization’s Secretary General.
The letter tells about the 30-year Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan and the deliberate destruction of the cultural heritage of the Azerbaijani people in the occupied territories.
The permanent representative noted that the devastating humanitarian, economic and social consequences, the aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan and the three-decades-old unlawful occupation of Azerbaijani territories also caused irreparable damage to the country’s cultural heritage, including thousands of cultural objects, including monuments of world and national importance, mosques, temples, mausoleums, museums, exhibits, art galleries, archaeological sites, libraries and rare manuscripts. He noted that Azerbaijani historical and cultural heritage on the territory of Armenia has suffered the same fate.
Aliyev further said that the government of Azerbaijan has consistently provided the UN with voluminous evidence attesting to Armenia’s purposeful actions aimed at consolidating and cementing the occupation of the territories of Azerbaijan by changing their demographic, cultural and physical character and preventing the hundreds of thousands of forcibly displaced Azerbaijanis from returning to their homeland, in flagrant violation of international law and the relevant resolutions of the Security Council.
“As a matter of particular importance and concern, Azerbaijan has repeatedly brought to the attention of the international community the atrocities committed against its cultural heritage, requesting the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and other international organizations to dispatch fact-finding missions to the occupied territories and undertake urgent measures to ensure the protection of cultural property there.”
“However, in order to conceal its hate crimes, Armenia has consistently denied access to such missions over the years of occupation. Thus, for example, in its report on the activities undertaken from 1995 to 2004 on the implementation of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its 1954 and 1999 Protocols, UNESCO pointed out the following. The Government of Azerbaijan has informed the Secretariat of its concern over the protection of cultural property in Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied territories adjacent to it, and has requested the despatch of a factfinding mission. However, the Secretariat has been prevented from sending a mission to verify the state of cultural property in the area, as other specialized agencies of the United Nations have not been able to enter these territories since their occupation by Armenian military forces. The Secretariat will reconsider sending a mission once a peaceful settlement has been reached by Armenia and Azerbaijan,” the letter read.
The diplomat reminded that the resumption of hostilities that followed Armenia’s renewed act of aggression at the end of September 2020 has resulted in the liberation of more than 300 cities, towns and villages of Azerbaijan from Armenian occupation.
“The liberated areas have provided vast evidence of the horrifying scale of destruction and looting carried out by the aggressors. Among other civilian objects, hundreds of historical, cultural and religious sites in those territories were looted, vandalized and destroyed. Out of 67 mosques and Islamic religious shrines, 64 have been destroyed or significantly damaged and desecrated. Defiled by Armenian graffiti, the mosques in the Aghdam,
Gubadly and Zangilan districts of Azerbaijan were used as pigsties and cowsheds. More than 900 graveyards were destroyed and vandalized in those territories,” he added.
The letter further emphasized that the traces of unlawful “archaeological excavations” and so-called “reconstruction” works were revealed in the liberated territories, confirming previous reports of Armenia’s attempts to conceal and falsify cultural, historical or scientific evidence.
“In the same vein, a modern workshop producing “ancient” khachkars, Armenian cross-stones, was found in the liberated Kalbajar district of Azerbaijan. These khachkars were oxidized and treated with vinegar so that they appeared old, then buried as “undeniable” proof of Armenian centuries-long roots in the region,” it said.
The permanent representative also noted that the armed forces of Armenia and Armenian illegal settlers did not refrain from further destroying and stealing cultural property while hastily vacating the occupied territories to be returned to Azerbaijan under the terms of the 10 November 2020 agreement.
He emphasized that Armenia’s wantonly destructive conduct in relation to Azerbaijani cultural heritage constitutes a flagrant violation of international law.
“Under international law, firstly, cultural property must not be the object of attack; secondly, special care must be taken to spare items of cultural property during hostilities; thirdly, seizure, destruction, wilful damage, theft, pillage and misappropriation of, as well as acts of vandalism
directed against, cultural property are prohibited; and, fourthly, an occupying power must prevent the illicit export of cultural property from occupied territory and must return illicitly exported property to the competent authorities of the occupied territory,” Aliyev added.
The diplomat also noted that Armenia’s actions against Azerbaijani cultural heritage during the conflict also constitute a violation of international human rights law and amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity under international criminal law.
Aliyev said the government of Azerbaijan will repair and restore all historical and cultural sites damaged during the years of conflict and occupation, without distinction of any kind.
The diplomat also called on the UN secretary-general to distribute the letter as a document of the UN General Assembly and the Security Council.
The photos of destroyed and desecrated mosques in Aghdam, Gubadli, Zangilan and Aghdam districts, as well as other cultural heritage sites of Azerbaijan destroyed by Armeniawere also attached to the letter.