Destruction of Armenian historical sites in Azerbaijan condemned.
The EPP-ED Group, the largest group of the European Parliament, initiated a resolution condemning a destruction of the Armenian medieval burial ground in the Julfa site in Nakhchivan.
The archaeological site is exceptional as there were about six thousand of the "khatchars" remaining - crosses carved in stone typical of ancient Armenian religious art - and which are a sign of the ethnic and cultural diversity of the region.
"We have reasonable evidence that the destruction of these sites was carried out not longer than three months ago, when the Azerbaijani authorities had a clear duty of care to protect them. The destruction cannot be directly linked to the military conflict of Nagorno Karakh 15 years ago as the Julfa site in Nakhchivan was never part of the war zone. It has been also testified by independent sources that entry to the cemetery requires crossing through Azerbaijani army controlled territory, which would make such a thing almost impossible without official support," said Charles Tannock MEP, one of the key players in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament.
"We took this initiative to table a resolution which condemns the destruction of the Armenian heritage. We proposed a mission to Nakhchivan in order to inspect the situation on the spot. The destruction of these historical monuments is irreversible and thus must be condemned once and for all," said Jacques Toubon MEP from France.
"The Armenian people, who have suffered from genocide and massive expulsions from their homes, cannot be left to witness the total extinction of their cultural heritage," said Ioannis Kasoulides MEP from Cyprus.
"We are at a critical juncture of talks between Armenian President Kocharian and Azerbaijani president Aliev in Rambouillet in France on finding a solution to the dispute between these two countries so I believe that any further planned destruction of Armenian heritage will not be conducive to lasting peace in region," concluded Charles Tannock.
For further information:
Office of Charles Tannock, tel.: +33 3 88175870
Office of Jacques Toubon, tel.: +33 3 88175166
Office of Ioannis Kasoulides, tel.: +33 3 88175155
Cultural heritage in Azerbaijan - Charles Tannock MEP for London
The alleged demolition in December 2005 of the mediaeval Julfa – also known historically as Jugha – Armenian burial grounds, with the breaking-up of the khachkars, or beautifully engraved headstones, is a serious desecration of European Christian heritage.
The Azerbaijani Government claimed the video footage documenting this is fraudulent Armenian propaganda. But I have received independent verification that the footage is genuine from a British architect, Steven Sim, an expert in the region. Furthermore, if there has been no destruction, why are on-site visits refused by the Azerbaijanis, who also, rather bizarrely, state that this could have been done by looters needing the stone for local building work?
Once more Mr Sim has stated that passage into the cemetery requires passing through Azerbaijani army-controlled territory, making such a thing almost impossible without official support and in clear breach of their duty of care to protect the site.
I have also been informed by the Azerbaijani Embassy that this destruction is nothing compared to the destruction of Azerbaijani mosques. I was indeed sent photos of destroyed mosques. That mosques in the war zone were destroyed in 1991 is undeniable and to be condemned without reservation, but the photos I was sent I believe represent destruction that took place 15 years ago, not 3 months ago. Furthermore, the Julfa site in Nakhichevan was never part of the war zone. Also, it is worth pointing out that I have been informed that the Nagorno-Karabakh authorities have recently agreed to a project for the reconstruction of mosques destroyed on their territory.
We are now at a critical juncture in the talks between the two Presidents, Kocharyan and Aliyev, in Rambouillet, France, on finding a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. I therefore believe that any further planned destruction of Armenian heritage will not be conducive to lasting peace in the region.