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UNESCO ready to send mission to Nagorno-Karabakh to protect cultural heritage

UNESCO plans to "work with all interested partners to create the conditions for such a mission" and has begun "high-level consultations" "with the States co-chairing the Minsk Group"

PARIS, November 20. /TASS/. UNESCO is ready to assist Armenia and Azerbaijan in protecting cultural heritage sites in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, the organization said in a statement on Friday.

"On November 18, the Director General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, received the representatives of Armenia and Azerbaijan to the Organization. The Director General recalled the statements made by the United Nations Secretary General, who had expressed his relief and welcomed the agreement on a total ceasefire and cessation of hostilities in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone," the statement reads.

"During these meetings, the Director General formally proposed the technical support of UNESCO, who have been unable to visit these zones to date despite past attempts, and who could, with the agreement of all concerned parties, carry out a preliminary field mission, in order to draw up an inventory of the most significant cultural assets, as a prerequisite for effective protection of the region's heritage," the document added.

UNESCO plans to "work with all interested partners to create the conditions for such a mission" and has begun "high-level consultations" "with the States co-chairing the Minsk Group."

The director general also "reaffirmed the universal dimension of cultural heritage, as a witness to history and as inseparable from the identity of peoples, which the international community has a duty to protect and preserve for future generations, beyond the conflicts of the moment."

Azoulay pointed to UN Security Council Resolution 2347, which says that "the unlawful destruction of cultural heritage, looting and smuggling of cultural property in the event of armed conflict, including by terrorist groups, and attempts to deny historical roots and cultural diversity in this context, can fuel and exacerbate conflicts and impede post-conflict national reconciliation, thus undermining the security, stability, governance and social, economic and cultural development of affected States".

Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

Renewed clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia erupted on September 27, with intense battles raging in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The conflict over the disputed territory, primarily populated by ethnic Armenians, broke out in February 1988 after the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region announced its withdrawal from the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1992-1994, tensions boiled over and exploded into large-scale military action for control over the enclave and seven adjacent territories after Azerbaijan lost control of them.

On November 9, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan signed a joint statement on a complete ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh starting from November 10. The Russian leader said that Azerbaijan and Armenia would maintain the positions that they had held and Russian peacekeepers would be deployed to the region.