PARIS, France – On Wednesday, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian addressed the racist rhetoric that’s disseminated in Azeri textbooks towards Armenians. Nalbandian mentioned the latter during his remarks at the General Policy Debate of the 39th Session of the UNESCO General Conference in Paris.
“It is regrettable that some states abuse the education for contrary objectives, exploiting it for dissemination of nationalist hatred especially among the youth,” said Nalbandian. “There are many such examples in the textbooks of Azerbaijan, one of them teaching the children that Armenians are their genetic enemies.”
Nalbandian explained how education, science, and the search for knowledge have deep roots in Armenian society. He also added that education is a strongest tool for boosting the values that this organization adheres to.
“In two years the State University of our capital Yerevan will mark its 100th anniversary. However, already 800 years ago the capital of the Cilician Armenian kingdom used to have a secular higher education institute, the University of Sis. Armenians have carried out these traditions throughout the centuries, including by founding schools in many places worldwide,” said the Minister.
In his statement, he cited the 2016 report of the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance in explaining that because political leaders, educational institutions, and the media in Azerbaijan have continued to use hate speech against Armenians, generations have grown up seeing Armenians as enemies.
He also discussed attempts by Azerbaijan to erase traces of Armenian culture and history in the region since it does not fit the portrayal of present day Azerbaijan. “Those who control Azerbaijan today think they can rewrite the history to legitimize their present xenophobic policies,” said Nalbandian.
“Historically being situated on the crossroads of different civilizations Armenia has cultivated deeply rooted traditions of coexistence and respect towards other cultures and religions,” added the foreign minister. “That is why Armenia preserves a rich cultural heritage that includes among others the Hellenistic era temple, some of the oldest churches in the world, medieval Jewish cemetery, 18th century mosque and soon will host the world’s largest Yazidi temple.”
Nalbandian stressed that the cooperation on preservation of the cultural heritage has been among the main pillars of UNESCO. The preservation of cultural heritage is very significant to Armenia because historical Armenian monuments exist around the world built by the various Armenian communities abroad.
He then continued to explain the alternative approaches by their neighboring states.
“There is a good cooperation with Iran that takes proper care of the Armenian monuments situated on its territory in a sharp contrast with neighboring Azerbaijan, but also Turkey, where numerous cultural monuments that were of universal value, have been lost forever,” said Nalbandian. “In this regard, I would like to reiterate Armenia’s interest for the participation of our experts in the excavation and restoration of archaeological sites in Turkey, in such places as Ani, the Armenian medieval capital.”
“We are also very much concerned of the attacks on the Armenian monuments and sacred sites in war-torn Syria. We strongly believe that the post conflict rehabilitation in Syria should reaffirm the rights of ethnic minorities, including Armenians, on their religious and cultural heritage,” the Armenian Foreign Minister added.
Nalbandian stated that Armenia strongly believes in this mission of UNESCO and stands ready to continue its contribution to the realization of these goals.