Commentary of the Press Service Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan on the UNESCO press release on sending of a mission to Azerbaijan

The Azerbaijani side has always been committed to cooperation with UNESCO, as well as the implementation of obligations arising from the conventions to which it adhered to, and in particular, its obligations to protect cultural heritage.

For many years, our country has made significant contributions to the activities of the organization in the restoration and protection of cultural heritage, both in Azerbaijan and globally. Protection of cultural heritage in Azerbaijan is one of the important directions of state policy. The successful hosting of the last session of the World Heritage Committee last year is a vivid indicator of the importance that Azerbaijan attaches to the protection of cultural heritage, as well as the confidence and trust of member states in Azerbaijan. The first-ever publication of "Military Manual for the Protection of Cultural Property during Armed Conflict" by UNESCO upon the initiative and with the support of the Republic of Azerbaijan is a clear example of our country's commitment to UNESCO.

However, it is unfortunate that during the 30 years of Armenia's military aggression against Azerbaijan and the occupation of our lands, our appeals to UNESCO to investigate war crimes such as destruction, misappropriation of our cultural heritage, change of its essence, as well as illegal transportation of cultural values from our land have been ignored and the UNESCO Secretariat has not shown determination in this regard.

UNESCO has been repeatedly informed that Azerbaijan is considering the proposal of the organization to send a mission to the Nagorno-Karabakh region and surrounding areas of the Republic of Azerbaijan. It should be noted that a number of factors, including security, weather and difficult terrain, must be taken into account when organizing a UNESCO mission to the region to assess the damage to our cultural property. As it is known, the territories of Azerbaijan were mined by Armenia during the occupation (since the statement of November 10 on the cessation of hostilities 6 civilians and 6 military servicemen were killed and 7 civilians and 14 military servicemen injured by landmines) and as the Armenian army withdrew from our occupied territories, it mined the area around historical and cultural monuments and turned the area into a dangerous zone.

The Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Azerbaijan has launched preliminary monitoring of cultural heritage in the liberated Azerbaijani lands, and the results of the initial monitoring have been officially submitted to UNESCO. The monitoring report also included photos of the destruction of all our religious and cultural monuments as well as the desecration of our mosques in the territories once occupied by Armenia. We hope that UNESCO will not remain silent about the war crimes reflected in the monitoring report.

We believe that UNESCO must fulfill its mission independently and objectively and not allow the issue of protection of cultural heritage to be politicized. Such press releases by UNESCO do not correspond to the spirit of cooperation between Azerbaijan and UNESCO.

Azerbaijan is open to a constructive dialogue with UNESCO to discuss the details of the mission and reiterates its readiness to cooperate with UNESCO based on respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of internationally recognized borders of the member states.

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