BAKU, Azerbaijan, April 5. The 214th session of the UNESCO Executive Board is taking place in Paris and Azerbaijan’s Permanent Representative to UNESCO, elected to this important body of UNESCO - the Executive Board with the broad support of Member States Elman Abdullayev presented the national statement of Azerbaijan at the session, Trend reports.
This meeting of the Executive Board is taking place at a time of turmoil for the international community against the backdrop of a serious deterioration in the situation in Ukraine and around it, Abdullayev said.
“Azerbaijan expresses its deep regret that the efforts for a peaceful settlement have not yet yielded results capable of stopping the fighting. The increase in the number of civilian casualties is of particular concern. We reaffirm the need for strict adherence to international humanitarian law in order to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, including cultural heritage and educational institutions,” the permanent representative said.
"Azerbaijan has been subjected to armed aggression by Armenia for about 30 years. Over the past years, serious war crimes have been committed, as well as crimes against humanity, the norms of international law on the protection of cultural heritage during an armed conflict have been grossly violated,” Abdullayev noted.
"Once quite prosperous Azerbaijani territories have been destroyed. For many years, the Armenian government has pursued a systematic policy of destroying, looting and misappropriating the cultural heritage of Azerbaijan, both in the territories that it held under occupation for 30 years, and in Armenia itself," he added.
Azerbaijan's representative said mines and the presence of unexploded ordnance in the territories of Azerbaijan liberated from Armenian occupation pose a serious threat to the cultural heritage of these lands, impede restoration work and delay the return of civilians. As a result, mine explosions killed and injured several civilians, as well as a reporter, Abdullayev said.
The Permanent Representative thanked the UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay for the statement condemning the deaths of Azerbaijani reporters and reminded that Azerbaijani media representatives Siraj Abishov and Maharram Ibrahimov died as a result of a mine explosion on June 4, 2021 in the Kalbajar region of Azerbaijan.
After the end of the armed conflict, Azerbaijan entered the phase of post-conflict reconstruction, restoration and reintegration, he noted.
According to Abdullayev, Azerbaijan is determined to properly preserve, restore and put into operation all cultural and religious monuments in the liberated territories, regardless of their origin. Azerbaijan continues to cooperate with the international community, including with the relevant specialized institutions and UN agencies, in connection with the ongoing large-scale rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in the liberated territories, Abdullayev said.
The Permanent Representative also expressed hope for UNESCO's contribution in this direction.
"The Azerbaijani government is interested in conducting an independent and impartial UNESCO technical mission to assess the state of cultural heritage in the country. Our country is ready to continue working in this direction without any delay and hopes that there will be no further obstacles due to any additional conditions. In this context, it is necessary to accelerate the response of the organization to the proposals submitted by Azerbaijan seven months ago - on August 19, 2021. Such a mission of UNESCO should be carried out in full compliance with the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan," he emphasized.
According to him, in addition to sending a UNESCO mission to the liberated territories of Azerbaijan, it is extremely necessary for the organization to assess the state of the cultural heritage of Azerbaijan in Armenia.
"Azerbaijan is ready to make an effective contribution to the work of the session. We highly appreciate the strengthening of the role of UNESCO in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by supporting and assisting countries through the Global Education Coalition, which we are proud to join,” Abdullayev said.
Everyone knows about Azerbaijan's long-term partnership with African countries. In this direction, our country also supports UNESCO's global African priority and calls for paying special attention to the needs of small developing island states," he noted.
Climate change, as one of the major global issues, continues to pose a threat to World Heritage properties, he added.
"Azerbaijan actively supports UNESCO's initiatives in the sphere of intercultural dialogue, in particular the UNESCO electronic platform for intercultural dialogue, which launched in 2018 and developed with the financial support of the Azerbaijani government. Azerbaijan supports the active role of youth in the decision-making process and we welcome the 12th UNESCO Youth Forum dedicated to the development of a post-COVID-19 action plan," Abdullayev said.
According to him, considering the growing importance of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in international issues, Azerbaijan, being a member of the UNESCO Executive Board, will strive to strengthen the existing mechanism for coordinating the countries participating in the NAM within this board.