UNESCO avoids investigating Armenian war crimes in previously occupied lands of Azerbaijan - analysis

2 February 2021 19:00 (UTC+04:00)

By Trend

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan said in a statement on Dec. 22, 2020 that during the 30 years of Armenia's military aggression against Azerbaijan and the occupation of our lands, its appeals to UNESCO to investigate war crimes such as destruction, misappropriation of Azerbaijani cultural heritage, change of its essence, as well as illegal transportation of cultural values from Azerbaijani land have been ignored and the UNESCO Secretariat has not shown determination in this regard.

"The Ministry of Culture of Azerbaijan has launched preliminary monitoring of cultural heritage in the liberated Azerbaijani lands, and the results of the initial monitoring have been officially submitted to UNESCO. The monitoring report also included photos of the destruction of all our religious and cultural monuments as well as the desecration of our mosques in the territories once occupied by Armenia. We hope that UNESCO will not remain silent about the war crimes reflected in the monitoring report," said the statement.

Azerbaijani Minister of Culture Anar Karimov said at a meeting with UN Resident Coordinator in the country, Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Gulam Isagzai that Azerbaijan has many times appealed to UNESCO in connection with a mission to monitor the state of cultural heritage sites in the territories of the country that had been under Armenian occupation for the past 30 years.

According to the minister, unfortunately, the appeals remained non-responded, and UNESCO never addressed Armenia to provide an opportunity to carry out the mission.

He noted that UNESCO's statements about sending its mission to the territories liberated from the Armenian occupation caused bewilderment of the Azerbaijani side.

"We brought to the organization's attention that in order to carry out the mission in the liberated territories, it’s first important to resolve security issues, especially, to de-mine the territories, and also take into account the unfavorable weather conditions,” added Karimov.

“It should be noted with regret that amid the current discussions, the unreasonable statements of UNESCO about Azerbaijan cast a shadow on the impartiality and neutral approach of this organization," said the minister.

The minister also noted that the Azerbaijani side is more interested in sending a monitoring mission to these territories, and supports arranging of such a mission to all monuments and cultural sites within the framework of territorial integrity, sovereignty and inviolability of the borders of Azerbaijan, respect for the principles of international law, without making a difference between their origin and religious nature.

Speaking on the issue with Trend, Russian historian, political analyst, professor Oleg Kuznetsov said that everybody remembers a number of anti-Azerbaijani statements made by UNESCO during the recent war between Armenia and Azerbaijan (44-day war from late Sept. through early Nov.2020, ending with liberation of Azerbaijan's territories).

He stressed that the UNESCO officials are well aware that as soon as the organization’s delegation members arrive in Karabakh, they will be shown the foundations of the destroyed 63 mosques out of 67, as well as the plundered and half-ruined Orthodox Church in the vicinity of Khojavend city.

"Afterwards the delegation members will be taken to the destroyed Azerbaijani cemeteries, shown the places of historical and cultural monuments destroyed by Armenians amid the perfectly preserved Armenian worship sites,” said the analyst. “The members will somehow need to explain such a situation, but no one in this world wants to admit their mistakes, therefore UNESCO representatives don’t come and won’t be coming any time soon."

According to him, there is only one way to preserve the prestige of this international organization in this situation.

"Its representatives should come to praise Azerbaijan's efforts to restore the damaged cultural heritage. As soon as any more or less historically and culturally significant mosque is restored in Karabakh, it will be necessary to wait for the soon arrival of the UNESCO delegates who will highly appreciate Azerbaijan believing that everyone in Baku has already forgotten about the anti-Azerbaijani statements of this UN structure, made during the war," said Kuznetsov.

The expert noted that if a registry of damage caused by the Armenian occupation to Azerbaijani historical and cultural values ​​is drawn up through UNESCO, with its participation, or upon its approval, this document will automatically become the basis for Azerbaijan's claim against Armenia at an international arbitration to pay compensation for the caused damage.

“Everyone understands that the Islamic heritage in the occupied territories was destroyed by Armenians purposefully. Armenians sold Azerbaijani monuments as scrap metal, and the whole world is very well aware of the fact," he said.

In turn, Russian expert, candidate of political sciences, senior lecturer of St. Petersburg State University Galina Niyazova told Trend that UNESCO should not follow the path of comparing the significance of different cultures and the importance of preserving monuments of one culture by completely ignoring the destruction of monuments of other culture.

The Russian expert stressed that on November 20, 2020, after the signing of a trilateral agreement on the complete cessation of hostilities, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay proposed to send an expert mission to the Nagorno-Karabakh region to protect cultural heritage sites.

"It is obvious that UNESCO representatives may visit the territories which are controlled by Azerbaijan only through Azerbaijan’s permission," Niyazova added. "In this case, Armenia can only hope and expect that while understanding the significance of history and culture, in the broadest sense, Azerbaijan will not follow the example of Armenia, which destroyed a myriad of monuments of cultural heritage in the previously occupied and now liberated territories of Azerbaijan."

“It is clear that insisting on Nagorno-Karabakh region and its cultural heritage, the UNESCO director-general means Armenian cultural monuments because only ruins are left among the Azerbaijani monuments in the region,” the expert said.

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