Nagorno-Karabakh: Christian sites ‘not in danger of destruction,’ says Azerbaijan minister
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In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24, Azerbaijan’s acting culture minister vowed that Christian heritage sites in Nagorno-Karabakh were not at risk after his Muslim-majority country gained control of the restive region, adding that any destruction on Azerbaijan’s behalf had been unintentional.
Anar Karimov told FRANCE 24’s Marc Perelman that Azerbaijan’s record as a multi-cultural nation should not be in doubt, and that Christian culture heritage sites in Nagorno-Karabakh would be preserved under its rule.
Turkey, which played a key role in supporting Azerbaijan’s military victory over the region, would have no say in how religious heritage sites and minorities would be dealt with, he said.
In 44 days of heavy fighting that began on September 27, the Azerbaijani military routed Armenian forces and wedged deep into Nagorno-Karabakh, forcing Armenia to accept a Russia-brokered peace deal that took effect on November 10. The agreement put a significant part of Nagorno-Karabakh back under Azerbaijan's control and Armenia was asked to hand over all of the regions it held outside the separatist region.
In the interview, Karimov said that Azerbaijan's recent destruction of a cathedral in the key Nagorno-Karabakh city of Shushi had been unintentional, and brushed off allegations by Western scholars as lies that his country had destroyed similar sites in the Nakhchivan region between 1997 and 2006.
Instead, the minister accused Armenia of having vandalised a number of Muslim religious sites in the area, saying UNESCO has been invited to investigate them once security and weather conditions allow for a visit.
Finally, Karimov criticised a resolution passed by the French Senate last week calling for Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence, saying it was merely a “piece of paper”, and pointing to the fact that the French government has said the resolution does not represent France’s official position.
The minister also urged France to stop taking sides with Armenia and therefore remain a credible mediator as co-chair of the Minsk group which has tried to mediate in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict for years.
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