Europa Nostra endorses EP Resolution against the destruction of cultural heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh

Europa Nostra fully endorses and supports the Resolution adopted by the European Parliament during its plenary meeting on 10 March which “strongly condemns Azerbaijan’s continued policy of erasing and denying the Armenian cultural heritage in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, in violation of international law and the recent decision of the International Court of Justice”. The Resolution was adopted with 635 votes in favour, 2 against and 42 abstentions, demonstrating the strong consensus of the European Parliament about the need to safeguard the endangered heritage in the region.

The European Parliament’s Resolution also “welcomes UNESCO’s proposal to send an independent expert mission and calls for it to be sent without delay” and “stresses that Azerbaijan must grant unhindered access to all cultural heritage sites in order for the mission to draw up an inventory on the ground and to see what has happened to the sites”. The Resolution also “calls on the Governments of Azerbaijan and Armenia, with the support of the international community, to ensure effective investigations into all allegations of violations of international law, including the protection of cultural heritage”.

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The European Parliament’s Resolution stresses that “cultural heritage has a universal dimension as a testimony of history inseparable from peoples’ identity, which the international community has to protect and preserve for future generations”; underlines “the importance of the rich cultural heritage of the region”; and urges “all states to take the necessary measures to ensure the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage sites present in territory under their control”. Moreover, the Resolution deplores the fact that “the conflicts in the Nagorno-Karabakh region have led to the destruction, pillaging and looting of common cultural heritage, which has fueled further distrust and animosities”.

We wish to recall a joint statement published by Europa Nostra and the European Association of Archaeologists on 6 July 2021, reiterating our joint commitment to the holistic preservation of the integrity, authenticity and diversity of the rich cultural heritage which is located in the Caucasus region. This statement also called for an impartial European/international team of experts to access the region in order to conduct a comprehensive and objective scientific survey of the rich and diverse cultural heritage in this area, with a related assessment of its state of conservation.

In this joint statement, we also urged the European Union Institutions and Member States to apply to the area of Nagorno-Karabakh the principles of the EU Council Conclusions on EU Approach to Cultural Heritage in conflicts and crises and adopt concrete positive measures in line with the related EU Concept Paper on Cultural Heritage in Conflicts and Crises.

Europa Nostra therefore congratulates the European Parliament on the excellent and comprehensive text of the Resolution recalling the reference texts and decisions and the situation around cultural heritage in the region, and firmly calling on the countries concerned, but also on the European Union and the Member States, UNESCO, the Council of Europe and the OSCE to do their utmost to safeguard the cultural and religious heritage of the region, underlining “that the efforts of the international community in safeguarding the cultural heritage are essential to laying the foundations for sustainable peace in the region”. For this reason, the EP Resolution also calls upon the EU and the Member States “to continue supporting the work of international organisations aimed at the protection of cultural and religious heritage”.

In the light of the above, Europa Nostra remains committed to contribute to the vital goal of the preservation of the rich but seriously endangered cultural heritage in the Nagorno-Karabakh area and once again offers its extensive heritage and civil society expertise and experience to contribute to the due protection of the integrity, authenticity and diversity of the cultural heritage in and around the area of Nagorno-Karabakh, as in other regions of the Caucasus. We are willing to work with all stakeholders concerned to help use cultural heritage (tangible and intangible) as a bridge between various communities and as a vector for (re)building respect, confidence and dialogue as prerequisites for a lasting peace and prosperity in the wider region.

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