Baku urges Yerevan to renounce hostile narratives, commit to normalizing relations
By Vugar Khalilov
Azerbaijan’s permanent representative to the UN Yashar Aliyev has urged Armenia to renounce hostile narratives and commit to normalizing inter-state relations in line with international law, Azernews reports.
Aliyev made the remarks in a letter to the UN Secretary-General about the consequences of the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani territories and the vandalism committed over 30 years against the cultural heritage of Azerbaijan in the Karabakh region.
The letter was a response to Armenia's allegations about the "destruction of the Armenian cultural heritage" sounded in a letter sent by the Armenian representative to the UN Secretary-General a few days ago.
The head of the Azerbaijani permanent mission to the UN said that instead of attempting to distort the facts, confuse the international community, misinterpret international documents, incite hostility and hatred, Armenia should, first of all, give up hostile narratives, stop hate propaganda and its sponsorship.
It must refrain from such actions, prosecute and punish those responsible for war crimes, commit to the normalization of interstate relations in line with international law, fulfill international obligations in good faith, and support efforts to establish, strengthen and maintain peace in the region, he added.
Aliyev emphasized that Armenia seeks to evade responsibility for the barbaric crimes committed during the armed conflict, falsify history and substantiate its territorial claims by distorting the main causes of the war it started against Azerbaijan.
The document notes that Armenia impudently uses such a delicate topic as cultural heritage, silently ignoring the numerous facts that openly show its policy of slander and hostility towards Azerbaijan for decades. For example, it is well known that, unlike Azerbaijan, Armenia is a mono-ethnic country and has achieved a kind of ethnic composition by expelling other peoples, including hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis, who were once the largest national minority in Armenia.
Azerbaijan's cultural heritage has been completely destroyed across Armenia, and many historical sites have been "rebuilt" to change their unique characteristics. Armenia has pursued a similar policy in relation to the previously occupied territories of Azerbaijan. Most of the towns and villages in Azerbaijan, which fell to the Armenian army in the early 1990s, were subjected to ethnic cleansing, which affected more than 700,000 Azerbaijanis, and were subsequently demolished.
Thousands of cultural sites, including mosques, temples, mausoleums, museums, art galleries, archeological monuments, libraries, and theaters, were looted and destroyed. The envoy emphasized that, in addition, the original architectural features of many cultural and religious sites have been deliberately and purposefully altered in order to deny and distort the history, culture, and ethnic identity of Azerbaijan.
The head of the Azerbaijani mission to the UN further noted that as a result of the occupation, Armenia desecrated Azerbaijani religious sites using them as a barn for cattle. Of the 67 mosques and Islamic shrines, 65 were destroyed and two were severely damaged. Against this background, Armenia states that it supports "friendly relations and constructive cooperation" with most Muslim countries. This is the highest degree of impudence.
In addition, 900 cemeteries in the previously occupied territories were vandalized. Azerbaijan has identified the destruction of millions of books and rare manuscripts, and the theft of thousands of museum exhibits and valuable artifacts found during illegal archeological excavations in these areas. This is an irreplaceable loss for the Azerbaijani cultural heritage.
The Azerbaijani diplomat stressed that these crimes were strongly condemned by the international community. At the 48th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, held in Islamabad on March 22-23, 2022, large-scale and widespread acts of vandalism, as well as desecration, looting, and destruction of archeological monuments, cultural heritage, and religious sites, including mosques and Islamic of shrines were strongly condemned, and Azerbaijan's efforts to hold Armenia accountable for violating its obligations were supported.
The council also strongly condemned the insulting and desecration of mosques in the liberated territories of Azerbaijan by using them as stables for pets, and demanded that Armenia put an end to its attempts to present Azerbaijan's historical and cultural heritage as its own.
Moreover, during the years of occupation, the puppet regime established by Armenia in Karabakh established a number of facilities in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, which also served as a symbol of Armenia’s colonial and annexation policy.
The letter says that immediately after the war, Azerbaijan declared the restoration and reconstruction of the liberated territories, as well as of all historical and cultural sites without exception, as its first priority. At the invitation of the Azerbaijani government, many international organizations, officials, and independent experts visited these areas to witness and document the damage caused during the 30 years of occupation and to observe the restoration work.
Now, Armenia, which has made loud statements about the "imperative" of UNESCO's unimpeded access to the liberated territories of Azerbaijan, "forgets" that it has consistently refused to allow the organization to visit those territories during the occupation period.
For instance, in its report on the implementation in the period from 1995 until 2004 of the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its Protocols of 1954 and 1999, UNESCO stated that it was not in a position to dispatch a mission to check the condition of cultural property in the area since other specialized agencies of the United Nations cannot enter these territories after the Armenian armed forces occupied them.
The Azerbaijani diplomat writes that even after the war, Armenia continues to politicize the participation of humanitarian organizations. The above-mentioned letter and the report attached to it are proof of Armenia's efforts to obstruct and disrupt the discussion by disseminating hostile narratives and incorrect information.
Regarding the International Court of Justice's decision on temporary measures issued on December 7, 2021, Armenia is deliberately silent on the fact that Azerbaijan has also sued Armenia in accordance with the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and the Court has issued two decisions on temporary measures.
Even the prejudiced wording created under the influence of the Armenian Diaspora, accepted by the European Parliament in March 2022, does not keep mute regarding the Armenian side's atrocities against Azerbaijan and its cultural and religious heritage, the letter stresses.
For example, the resolution acknowledges that the Azerbaijani cities of Aghdam and Fuzuli have been almost completely destroyed and looted and that Azerbaijan's cultural heritage sites, including cultural and religious monuments abandoned by Azerbaijani IDPs, have been damaged or destroyed.
It is emphasized that these facilities were completely or partially destroyed, turned into ruins, and insulted, since they were used as barns for cattle, modified to erase cultural traces, or demolished and turned into building materials.
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