Ratas and members of an Estonian parliamentary delegation headed by him travelled to Shushi on May 24 during an official visit to Azerbaijan.
Simonian described the trip and pro-Azerbaijani comments made there by Ratas as “extremely concerning” during a meeting with Estonia’s Tbilisi-based ambassador to Armenia, Riina Kaljurand. He said they run counter to Armenia’s “friendly” relations with Estonia and the Baltic state’s stated support for a Karabakh settlement sought by the OSCE Minsk Group.
“The president of the National Assembly of Armenia expressed hope that his Estonian counterpart will visit Armenia soon, familiarize himself with the situation on the ground and also meet with officials representing Nagorno-Karabakh,” read a statement released by the Armenian parliament’s press office.
Earlier this year, the Armenian Foreign Ministry sent a note of protest to the United Nations after a senior UN official participated in an event organized by the Azerbaijani government in Shushi. Reacting to the event, Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian leadership accused Baku of trying to use international bodies for “legitimizing the results of its aggression” against Karabakh.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev praised Ratas’s visit to the Azerbaijani-held town when he received the latter in Baku on May 25. Aliyev said the Estonian speaker had a chance to see evidence of “large-scale destruction committed by the Armenians” there.
Baku itself has been accused of trying to wipe out Shushi’s Armenian heritage. It emerged last year that the town’s Holy Savior Cathedral has been stripped of its conical dome and cross attached to it.
Yerevan said this was done for “depriving the Shushi Cathedral of its Armenian identity.” The Azerbaijani authorities claimed that they are simply renovating the 19th century church damaged during the war.
The imposing cathedral, also known as Ghazanchetsots, was twice struck by long-range Azerbaijani missiles during the 2020 war.
The authorities in Stepanakert have also accused Azerbaijan of systematically destroying another, smaller Armenian church located in Shushi. They say that Baku plans to transform it into a Russian Orthodox church under the guise of major renovation.