Moscow Favors ‘Speedy’ UNESCO Mission to Karabakh

The Gazanchetsosts Cathedral in Shushi is being dismantled by Azerbaijan

Russia said on Wednesday that as part of its commitment to the preservation of cultural and historical monuments, Moscow favors the organizing of a UNESCO mission to Karabakh as soon as possible.

Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told reporters that in its discussions with Baku and Yerevan the topic of preserving cultural and historical heritage is often discussed.

Zakharova went on to recall that on December 7, a joint statement by the foreign ministers of Russia, the United States and France called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to continue cooperation under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group to make real progress in humanitarian issues, including protection of historical and cultural monuments.

However, last week, Azerbaijan announced its intention to form a commission tasked with stripping the Armenian identity from all cultural, religious and historic buildings and monuments and appropriate them as having Albanian roots, in an effort to remove “false traces left by Armenians,” in territories of Artsakh currently occupied by Azerbaijan.

Russia welcomes the return of eight servicemen to the Armenian side by Azerbaijan on February 7, ARMENPRESS reports, official representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Maria Zakharova announced during the briefing with journalists.

”Of course it is important to solve this problematic issue of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations as soon as possible, finish the exchange of detained persons, according to the principle “all for all”, she said.

Zakharova mentioned that with the mediation of the Russian peacekeepers on December 2, 2020 a total of 146 persons were returned, 127 to the Armenian side, 19 to the Azerbaijani side.

”Undoubtedly we consider it important to make efforts to clarify the fate of the missing persons, and we will promote that both at national level, and as a member state of the OSCE Minsk Group”, she announced. 

Speaking at parliament on Wednesday, Armenia’s foreign minister, Ararat Mirzoyan, said UNESCO’s involvement is imperative. He also added that the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan discussed such a mission during their virtual meeting on February 4, mediated by the European Union and France.

Mirzoyan said that Armenia welcomes such a mission, but added that there are no specific dates.

“The sides have reaffirmed the importance of such a visit to the region. And now, after this announcement [by Azerbaijan], we are applying to UNESCO, we are also planning in person meetings to discuss this issue. In our opinion, that visit should take place based on the principles established by the 1954 Convention on the Protection of Cultural Heritage in the event of armed conflict,” Mirzoyan concluded.

Saying that his ministry had addressed Baku’s intentions and in a statement had strongly condemned the move.

He said the creation of such a commission by Baku poses “a challenge to the UN International Court of Justice in terms of its December 7 decision and the application of urgent measures, which clearly obliges Azerbaijan to prevent, punish cases of vandalism of Armenian cultural heritage, religious heritage, including churches, other monuments, and sights. Azerbaijan must fulfill its obligation imposed by the court decision.”