PARIS–Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian spoke Thursday at the 35th session of the UNESCO General Conference, where he discussed Armenia’s ties with the international organization and raised concerns over Azerbaijan’s continued vandalism of historic Armenian sites under Azerbaijani occupied Nakhichevan.
The UNESCO General Conference convenes every two years, and includes the representatives of UNESCO’s 193 Member States. It determines UNESCO’s policies and main lines of work and adopts the biennial program and budget, as well as international standard-setting instruments.
Below is Nalbandian’s statement:
Distinguished Mr. President,
Distinguished Director General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to congratulate Ms. Irina Bokova, on her upcoming election as Director-General of UNESCO. I am confident, that with her leadership this distinguished forum will make a remarkable step forward in achieving major goals of this Organization.
I am also honored to express my sincere thanks to H.E. Koichiro Matsuura, the outgoing Director General, for his dedicated work for the last 1o years.
Since the first day of its membership to this Organization, Armenia’s policy in cooperation with UNESCO has pursued the goal of benefiting from its tremendous capacity, and adding value through contribution by its own cultural values, scientific and educational potential in the achievement of UNESCO’s noble goals.
We welcome the policy of the Organization in the context of the overall UN reform, to bring its offices close to the regions it deals with and become a more active member of the UN country team in the implementation of “One-UN” concept. The conclusion of the UNESCO Country Programming Document of Cooperation between UNESCO and the Republic of Armenia in March 2008 provides with ample opportunities to extend its activities in Armenia by developing inter-sectoral country programs linked with and complementary to the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF).
Armenia has developed vast cooperation with UNESCO in all areas of its interest implementing multiple programs and initiatives. Just to name a few, within the “Education for All” program, we hosted this September a Regional Conference on “Enhancement of quality of Education and Curriculum Development.” This November, the Armenian National Commission together with the Ministry of Culture is organizing under the auspices of UNESCO a regional conference entitled “Cultural Policy and Policy for Culture.”
The inclusion of the 800th anniversary of the world renowned manuscript illuminator Toros Roslin, and 1600th anniversary of the founder of the Armenian historiography Movses Khorenatsi in the UNESCO list of anniversaries for 2010-2011 would allow us to pay tribute to the work and memory of these exceptional figures that left an inerasable footprint in the minds and history of mankind.
Armenia is a country rich with cultural monuments dating back to 4th millennium BC. As of today there are nearly 33 000 historical and cultural monuments in Armenia under state protection, included in the State Register of National Heritage.
For centuries, the Armenian people have erected numerous and diverse cultural monuments most of which, due to known historical events, are currently located outside the borders of the present-day Republic of Armenia. Armenia’s neighbors have displayed different approaches towards the question of the preservation of Armenian historical heritage.
There is an excellent cooperation with the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) that takes proper care of the Armenian monuments situated in its territory. The living proof of the aforementioned is the inclusion of St. Thaddaeus Monastery in the World Heritage List by the suggestion of Iran.
In the recent years the 17th-century Persian mosque erected in Yerevan has been restored in cooperation with the Iranian specialists, and has become functioning.
Unfortunately, this positive experience is not reciprocated by our other neighbors. As a result of the policy of destruction of the Armenian historical heritage, thousands of cultural monuments that were of universal value, have been lost forever.
In an era when the protection and promotion of human rights is considered to be the underpinning concept for a civilized nation, damaging or destroying cultural or religious memory intentionally, consistently, repeatedly, must be condemned with the same resolve and determination as violence aimed against people.
Unfortunately, with Azerbaijan, efforts to do away with Armenian heritage go on unabated despite the continuous alarm rang by Armenia.
A painful proof of the monument demolition that has been in process for years, is the annihilation of the centuries-old Jugha (Julfa) Cemetery in Nakhichevan with its tens of thousands of delicately carved, unique cross-stones dating from the 9th to the 16th centuries, that bore to the talent and the artistic skill of the masters of Jugha.
There was no war in the years between 1998 and 2005 when thousands of these giant sculptures were knocked over, piled onto railroad cars and carted away under the Azerbaijani government’s watchful eyes. In 2005, this enormous cultural gem was bulldozed down, leveled and turned into a military training ground in a government-sanctioned operation. As regretfully stated in the 16th ICOMOS General Assembly resolution: “this heritage that once enjoyed its worthy place among the treasures of the world’s heritage can no longer be transmitted today to future generations.”
There was no war also in 1975, when a 7th century Armenian church was completely demolished in the center of Nakhichevan, for no reason other than to wipe out the memory of the Armenians who constituted a majority there just decades earlier.
Armenia gives high priority to the protection of cultural values which are not “mine” or “yours” but “ours” — those cultural values that are truly universal and shared, those that are worthy not just of national attention but international. Armenia’s commitment to protection and promotion of human rights and cultural diversity is very real. Both cultural diversity and the protection of monuments are especially significant for nations which have monuments beyond national borders, indeed in countries around the world and particularly in our neighborhood. Doomed from its very beginning, the annihilation of the civilization of any people is incompatible with and unallowable for any country aspiring to membership in such international organizations, as UNESCO.
We do believe that this organization, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, would be able to stand up to the challenge of unabated violation of cultural rights and thus bring its contribution to enhancing intercultural dialogue and tolerance all over the world.
Thank you Mr. President.