Official Baku on Friday justified Azerbaijan’s complete destruction of a church in Artsakh’s occupied Mekhakavan by claiming that the church was “illegally” built during what it called Armenia’s “nearly 30 years of occupation” of the area.
Armenia’s foreign ministry was quick to blast Baku, saying “any attempt by Azerbaijan to justify the barbaric destruction of a place worship is concerning and deplorable.”
On Thursday, Jonah Fisher, a BBC reporter, posted a segment proving that Azerbaijan demolished the Zoravor Surp Astvatsatsin (St. Mary’s) Church in Mekhakavan (formerly Jebrail) after the area was surrendered to Baku as a condition to the November 9 agreement.
In its statement, Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry indirectly blamed the OSCE, claiming that the international body, whose Minsk Group co-chairs are tasked with mediating a settlement to the Karabakh conflict, essentially did not take action when Baku addressed the matter.
“In 2017, following the Republic of Azerbaijan’s appeals to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Co-Chairs from the OSCE Minsk Group agreed to visit the chapel in Jebrail. The Republic of Azerbaijan raised grave concerns that the Armenian forces were altering the demographic, cultural and physical character of the occupied territories of Azerbaijan,” said Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry. “Following their visit, the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs concluded that the chapel had been built as part of a military compound in Jebrail for use by Armenian soldiers.”
“The chapel cannot be considered a part of Jebrail’s cultural history when its construction, reportedly only five years ago, solely served the occupying forces of Armenia,” official Baku added.
Armenia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Anna Naghdalyan on Friday said that through its statement Baku was acknowledging the “deliberate, pre-planned and complete” destruction of the church, proving that Azerbaijani authorities were fully aware of the plan.
“Once again we emphasize that the international community, and first of all the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs and Co-Chair countries, as well as UNESCO must immediately intervene to preserve Armenian historical-cultural heritage,” said Naghdalyan.
“It is worth noting,” she said, “that at the same time the Azerbaijani side is keeping dead silent over the accusations and facts on the destruction of the more than 200-years-old Church of St. Hovhannes Mkrtich (Kanach Zham) in Shushi, Republic of Artsakh, probably unable to find any ‘justification’ for this barbarism, even an imaginary one.”