Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian addressed the 38th session of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in Doha, Qatar, on Friday, condemning the intentional destruction of cultural and religious heritage and artifacts in Azarbaijan and admiring Iran’s efforts in preserving Armenian cultural heritage in the Islamic Republic.
Nalbandian specifically drew attention to Azerbaijan’s abuse of Armenian cultural heritage and the “intentional destruction of medieval Armenian artifacts”, including cross-stones and churches, in the Nakhijevan region, Public Radio of Armenia reported.
“In an era when the protection and promotion of human rights are considered to be the underpinning concept for the civilized world, intolerance towards the values of civilization belonging to others, intentionally damaging or destroying cultural or religious heritage, must be condemned with the same resolve and determination as violence against people,” he said.
Nalbandian pointed to the vandalism of an Armenian cemetery in Nakhijevan and said, “Religious freedom in Azerbaijan has deteriorated.”
He mentioned Baku’s only remaining Armenian church, which is currently used as an archive for the presidential administration, and the confiscated Lutheran Church turned into a concert hall as other examples of Azerbaijan’s lack of respect toward Armenian heritage.
“If we—UNESCO and other international organizations, do not act today, what would be the future of those and many other endangered monuments tomorrow?” Nalbandian asked.
Armenia’s top diplomat contrasted Azerbaijan’s actions to Iran’s, praising the latter for its effort to protect Armenian culture and traditions.
“In sharp contrast to this, neighboring Iran has made great efforts to preserve and protect Armenian cultural heritage.
The Armenian Monastic Ensembles of Iran, the oldest of which dates back to the 7th century, were inscribed on the World Heritage List by the Iranian government. On our part, Armenia reconstructed the Iranian 18th century Blue Mosque in Yerevan, and is going to inscribe it on the World Heritage List,” Nalbandian said.