STEPANAKERT —  Artsakh Foreign Ministry condemned in a statement on February 8. the decision of the Azerbaijani authorities to establish a special commission tasked with, according to subsequent statements by officials, destroying the traces of the Armenian identity of cultural and religious monuments located in the territories of Artsakh occupied by Azerbaijan.

According to Artsakh Foreign Ministry, ‘the Azerbaijani government’s move serves as another convincing evidence of the fact that the Armenian cultural heritage that has come under the control of the Azerbaijani authorities is in real danger of being completely destroyed or torn off from their historical roots.’

‘We have repeatedly stated that the falsification of history and the cultural genocide by Azerbaijan are an integral part of the broader anti-Armenian policy systematically pursued by Baku for several decades. If at the initial stage of the Azerbaijani-Karabakh conflict, manipulations with history and culture served as a justification for the deportation of the Armenian population from the former Azerbaijan SSR, now they are aimed at legitimizing the results of the illegal use of military force by Azerbaijan against Artsakh.

The elimination of any traces of the Armenian presence both in the occupied territories of Artsakh and in Azerbaijan through the falsification of history, destruction of Armenian cultural monuments and renaming of autochthonous toponyms is, in fact, a continuation of Azerbaijan’s aggression by other methods.

There is a strong belief among the international community and in expert circles that the destruction of cultural monuments is an attack on the dignity of peoples, their values and ideals in order to undermine the nation’s ability to withstand historical trials and develop. By declaring war on Armenian history and culture, Azerbaijan is trying to achieve exactly this goal.

The destruction of the Armenian cultural heritage is not only an attempt to deprive the people of Artsakh of their rights, including the right to culture, but also a challenge to the international community and a threat to peace and security. Over the past decades, the international community represented by the UN, in response to the increasing number of cases of deliberate destruction of cultural monuments during conflicts across the world, has developed a position according to which the destruction of cultural sites is a war crime and amounts to acts of terrorism.

The creation in Azerbaijan of a special commission tasked with changing the appearance of Armenian cultural and religious monuments and with their subsequent appropriation is a gross violation of the order of the International Court of Justice on provisional measures, which require official Baku to prevent and punish acts of vandalism and desecration of the Armenian cultural heritage, including, but not limited to, churches and other places of worship, monuments, landmarks, cemeteries and artefacts. The order of the International Court of Justice is binding on Azerbaijan. The refusal to implement it demonstrates Baku’s intention to undermine, albeit at a local level, the system of international relations that ensures international peace and security.

We once again call on the world community and specialized international organizations to urgently take all necessary measures to make Azerbaijan comply with its international obligations to preserve and respect the cultural heritage of the Armenian people and to fully implement the order of the International Court of Justice on provisional measures.’

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