PanARMENIAN.Net - UNESCO will send a fact-finding mission to Nagorno-Karabakh, the organization's Director General Audrey Azoulay told Armenian Foreign Minister Ara Aivazian over the phone on Monday, January 26.
According to a press release from the Armenian Foreign Ministry, the two weighed in on issues of preserving the Armenian religious, cultural and historical heritage in the zone of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the prospects for cooperation with UNESCO.
Aivazian noted that he expects the active involvement of UNESCO in the process of protecting the Armenian heritage in the territories that have come under the control of Azerbaijan, which is especially important given Azerbaijan's well-documented attempts to deliberately destroy historical monuments and distort their identity.
It was reported in December 2020 that Azerbaijani was delaying its approval for a UNESCO mission to Karabakh (Artsakh) to assess damage to cultural and religious sites, according to a statement published by the organization. Ernesto Ottone, Assistant UNESCO Director-General for Culture, said back then that only the response of Azerbaijan was still awaited for UNESCO to proceed with the sending of a mission to the field. The authorities of Azerbaijan had been approached several times without success.
During the recent military hostilities, Azerbaijani forces launched two targeted attacks on the Holy Savior Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in Shushi. After taking control of the city, they destroyed the domes of Saint John the Baptist Church. Azerbaijan earlier 'restored' a church by replacing its Armenian inscription with glass art. Concerns about the preservation of cultural sites in Nagorno-Karabakh are made all the more urgent by the Azerbaijani government's history of systemically destroying indigenous Armenian heritage-acts of both warfare and historical revisionism. The Azerbaijani government has secretly destroyed a striking number of cultural and religious artifacts in the late 20th century. Within Nakhichevan alone, a historically Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani forces destroyed at least 89 medieval churches, 5,840 khachkars (Armenian cross stones) and 22,000 historical tombstones between 1997 and 2006.