Europa Nostra participates in the conference “Protecting Armenian Cultural and Religious Heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh” hosted by the European Parliament

On 24 January 2024, the Secretary General of Europa Nostra participated in the conference “Protecting Armenian Cultural and Religious Heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh”, hosted by Miriam Lexmann MEP and the EPP Group at the European Parliament in Brussels. In her online address, Sneška Quaedvlieg Mihailović emphasised: “Armenian heritage is an indispensable part of our shared European heritage. Europeans and EU institutions bear a shared responsibility to stop acts of destruction.”

Prominent figures in attendance included MEPs Mariam Lexmann and François-Xavier Bellamy, Professor Pierre D’Argent from the Institute of International Law at the University of Louvain, Garegin Hambardzumyan, Head of the Mission Department of the Mother See and Coordinator of the Department for Preservation of Cultural Heritage of Artsakh, Armine Tigranyan, author and cultural heritage specialist, and H.E. Dr. Tigran Balayan, Ambassador, Head of Mission of Armenia to the EU.

During the conference, Mariam Lexmann addressed concerns  relating to the politicisation of religious and cultural heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh, advocating for collaborative efforts to protect these invaluable assets. Ambassador Tigran Balayan shared his personal experiences of cultural heritage destruction and called for the establishment of a framework within the European Parliament to oversee protection efforts.

Professor Pierre D’Argent emphasised the need for diplomatic solutions, while Garegin Hambardzumyan stressed the vital link between religious freedom and peace in Nagorno-Karabakh, calling for increased international efforts to support preservation.

The Secretary General of Europa Nostra highlighted that Armenian heritage and stakeholders are a part of and benefit from the key projects led by Europa Nostra, namely the 7 Most Endangered Programme, the European Heritage Awards / Europa Nostra Awards and the European Heritage Hub pilot project.

Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović outlined Europa Nostra’s initiatives related to Nagorno-Karabakh.

In 2021, Europa Nostra and the European Association of Archaeologists published a statement calling for a holistic preservation of the integrity, authenticity and diversity of the rich cultural heritage in and around the area of Nagorno-Karabakh. In 2022, Europa Nostra endorsed the EP resolution against the destruction of cultural heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh, condemning the policy of erasing and denying the Armenian cultural heritage in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, in violation of international law.

In a recent statement, after the ethnic cleansing denounced by the Resolution approved by the European Parliament on 5 October 2023, we are urging the international community to make every effort to translate the declarations into clear actions; stressing the need for the urgent and immediate realisation of a neutral, reliable international mission as proposed by UNESCO; calling on a greater involvement of the international community in protecting tangible and intangible heritage in the region; and insisting on starting a constructive dialogue with the Azerbaijan’s authorities, experts and civil society as a first step towards peace and reconciliation.

In support of the European Parliament’s stance against heritage destruction, Europa Nostra, with its 60-year legacy of safeguarding endangered heritage, alongside the European Union, has consistently championed preservation efforts, including those in Nagorno-Karabakh. The deliberate destruction of multicultural and multireligious heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh is deemed a cultural tragedy, affecting not only Armenian but also European heritage.

In light of the renewed relationship with the Caucasus under the European Heritage Hub, there is a renewed commitment  to establish dialogue and bridge-building efforts, particularly given the upcoming COP29 in Baku. The Secretary General of Europa Nostra expressed the idea of an appeal to the European Parliament to designate Dadivank Monastery in Azerbaijan as a symbol of safe passage and heritage preservation underscores the importance of concerted efforts involving Armenian and Azerbaijani authorities. She also said that Europa Nostra stands ready to engage with civil society in Azerbaijan to foster dialogue and understanding. The proposed mission aims to kickstart a meaningful dialogue, ensuring that cultural heritage preservation is integral to any peace agreements in the region.

Ambassador Tigran Balayan expressed support for Sneška Quaedvlieg Mihailović’s proposals and emphasised the importance of building cooperation with France to advance Cultural Heritage protection initiatives. Costas Mavrides MEP discussed the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and the EU Magnitsky Act, emphasising the role of MEPs in sanctioning states for human rights violations.

The meeting concluded with a resounding call for international solidarity and continued cooperation to safeguard Armenian heritage in Nagorno Karabakh. The attendees pledged to work tirelessly to ensure the preservation of these cultural treasures for future generations.

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