The Extended 45th Session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee is being held in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, on September 10-25, which is also attended by the Head of the Department for the Protection of Historical and Cultural Monuments of the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports of the Republic of Armenia, Coordinator of the Convention on the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage of 1972, Harutyun Vanyan.
In his speech representing the Armenian delegation, Harutyun Vanyan drew the audience's attention to the fact that Azerbaijan, constantly politicizing the UNESCO cultural platform, is voicing unfounded and false allegations against Armenia, and this behavior contradicts the values and principles of the organization.
The Armenian representative also objected to Azerbaijan's proposal to include the Azokh and Verin Tagher Caves located in Nagorno-Karabakh in the preliminary list of Azerbaijan.
In his speech, the Armenian delegate noted that the caves included in the preliminary list are located in Hadrut region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which, as a result of the war unleashed by Azerbaijan in 2020, came under the control of the latter. Since then, Azerbaijan has state-initiated a cultural genocide of the thousand-year-old Armenian cultural heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh, with numerous documented cases of destruction of cultural sites, desecration and usurpation of Armenian identity. The recently destroyed satellite photos of the St. Sargis Church in the village of Mokhrenes in Hadrut district, in particular, serve as a vivid example of Azerbaijan's disregard not only for the Armenian cultural heritage but also for the decision of the International Court of Justice, which, by a decision of December 7, 2021, obliges Azerbaijan "to take all necessary measures to prevent and punish acts of vandalism and desecration directed against the Armenian cultural heritage, including churches and other places of worship, monuments, landmarks, cemeteries and artifacts.”
The resolution of the European Parliament of March 10, 2022, in which the Organization condemns Azerbaijan for destroying cultural heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh and spreading anti-Armenian sentiment in Azerbaijan was also cited.
Harutyun Vanyan noted that Azerbaijan still refuses to grant access rights to the UNESCO fact-finding mission to Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent territories to conduct an inventory of the most important cultural values proposed by the UNESCO Director-General in November 2020 as a precondition for the effective protection of the region's heritage. Since December 12, 2022, along with the inhumane blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh, these actions of Azerbaijan indicate the intention of genocide to destroy the indigenous Armenian population and erase any traces of its cultural heritage.
They also emphasized the urgent need to host a UNESCO mission and Armenia's willingness to cooperate with UNESCO.