While receiving newly appointed United Nations Resident Coordinator in Azerbaijan Vladanka Andreeva on August 24, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, in particular, accused Armenia of objecting to a UNESCO fact-finding mission in Nagorno-Karabakh.
“We can say that we had been calling them [UNESCO] for 30 years and they wouldn’t come. And after the war they decided to come. Therefore, we agreed to this and, as far as I know, the latest information was that the mission had already been created, but now Armenia is protesting again. That’s why the mission is delayed,” Aliyev said, as quoted by local media.
Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vahan Hunanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun) on Wednesday that the need for the immediate implementation of the UNESCO fact-finding mission arose after last year’s 44-day war in order to protect the Armenian cultural and religious heritage from the imminent danger of destruction in the territories that went under the control of Azerbaijan.
“Both during the hostilities and after the establishment of the ceasefire, there have been numerous documented cases of deliberate destruction of and vandalism against Armenian churches, other cultural and religious monuments by the Azerbaijani armed forces. Moreover, in parallel with the physical destruction of religious and cultural heritage sites of Artsakh [the Armenian name for Nagorno-Karabakh], we are witnessing unacceptable cases of falsification of historical facts, distortion of the identity and belonging of Armenian monuments, change of architectural appearance by the order of the top leadership of Azerbaijan,” he said.
Hunanian said that in order to cover up cultural crimes, Azerbaijan has been blocking the visit of UNESCO experts for some time, while accusing the organization of bias. Stressing that the practice of creating obstacles for the implementation of the mission by the Azerbaijani authorities and the politicization of the issue continues, the Armenian Foreign Ministry reminded that as early as December 2020, UNESCO’s deputy director-general for cultural affairs stated that Azerbaijan was not giving its consent to the mission.
“Artsakh’s endangered cultural and religious heritage urgently needs international attention in order to properly preserve it and prevent cases of vandalism. The implementation of the UNESCO mission and a comprehensive study of the historical and cultural heritage will contribute to the efforts to preserve cultural heritage in the territories under the control of Azerbaijan and prevent possible negative developments,” the ministry spokesman said.
Hunanian emphasized that the Armenian side is interested in the implementation of the mission as soon as possible and continues to make targeted efforts in this direction.