Elman Abdullayev: Ballistic missile launch on Shusha, home to many cultural and religious sites, is a war crime

“Unfortunately, the results of the occupation are devastating. Almost all historical, cultural and religious monuments were completely destroyed during the period of occupation. Until today we could identify more than 400 destroyed monuments which in general vary between 2000 and 3000. Cultural and religious property belonging to Azerbaijan has been looted, desecrated, altered and illegally exported to Armenia. This is a blatant violation of the 1954 Hague Convention and its two protocols, as well as the 1970 Convention," said Ambassador Elman Abdulayev, Permanent Delegate of Azerbaijan to UNESCO, at the 211th session of the UNIESCO Executive Board in Paris.

Elman Abdullayev said: "The second year of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose a great threat to society and to have a devastating impact on our livelihoods. This pandemic is bigger than a health crisis and we must stand together to overcome the challenges. Azerbaijan supports UNESCO's initiatives and is actively engaged in the fight against COVID-19 within different international platforms.

As you know, the trilateral statement of 10 November 2020 signed by the leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia resulted in a complete cessation of fire and all military activities between Armenia and Azerbaijan, putting an end to almost 30 years of occupation of the territories of my country by Armenia.

During the 44-day war, the Armenian army launched Iskander ballistic missiles targeting the city of Shusha, causing severe damage to the city. As you are aware, the city of Shusha is a cultural capital of Azerbaijan and has been placed on the World Heritage Tentative List. The Prime Minister of Armenia himself admitted the launch of this ballistic missile on Shusha, which hosts numerous cultural and religious sites in close vicinity. This is an obvious war crime and clear violation of the 1954 Hague Convention and its Second Protocol. This act of hostility, confessed at the highest level in Armenia, clearly echoes vicious approach of the Armenian Government to cultural and religious values. Those responsible for these acts must be brought to justice.

The assessment of unprecedented damage inflicted on cultural heritage of Azerbaijan by an independent technical mission stands as a priority for the Government of Azerbaijan and we are closely cooperating with UNESCO Secretariat to elaborate necessary parameters of such mission. Terms of Reference and the entire visit of technical mission is being discussed between UNESCO and Azerbaijan on the basis of 1954 Hague Convention and its two Protocols, in technical and completely depoliticized manner. 

Unfortunately, we see that Armenia is trying to distract the negotiation process and tries to use it as a political tool by misleading the international community. 

We believe that any attempt to politicize the mission and any other related issues with regard to the cultural heritage will jeopardize UNESCO-Azerbaijan joint efforts towards successful accomplishment of this mission.

We appreciate the support of our esteemed colleagues for the technical mission to the liberated territories of Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, it took more than 20 years to respond to Azerbaijan's request to send this mission, which was prevented each time by Armenia.

Another problem is that Armenia still refuses to hand over mine maps to Azerbaijan, which prevents our Government from implementing the restoration works, delays the return of Azerbaijanis to their native lands, and restricts the travel within the liberated areas due to these security concerns. As a result of mine explosions dozens are killed and many wounded.     

Cultural heritage situated in the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan, regardless of its origin, whether secular or religious, reflects the cultural diversity of the people of Azerbaijan”.


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