Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

EP Calls on Azerbaijan to stop destruction of Armenian cultural heritage

European Armenian Federation - Press Release - 23 January 2006

On January 19, 2006 the European Parliament adopted a resolution on its European Neighbourhood Policy toward the South Caucasus which included provisions calling on Azerbaijan to end its destruction of Armenian cultural heritage sites, and urging Turkey to end its border closure with Armenia, reported the European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy (EAFJD).

The report was prepared by Charles Tannock, MEP (EPP-ED, UK) following the European Counsil's decision in February of 2004 to integrate the South Caucasus into its European Neighbourhood Policy.

Two of the most striking elements of the resolution dealt with Azerbaijani and Turkish actions directed against Armenians and the region's ancient Armenian heritage. The first of these urged "Azerbaijani authorities to stop the ongoing destruction of mediaeval Armenian cemeteries and historic carved stone crosses in Southern Nakhichevan." The second "exhorted Turkey to play a constructive role" in the region and "asked Turkey to open its frontier with Armenia."

The resolution also noted that, "the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict impedes Armenian and Azerbaijani development, regional cooperation, and the effective establishment of the European Neighbourhood Policy." It called for dialogue between "all the parties concerned," on the basis of minority rights and respect for international legal principles. Furthermore, it asked all concerned parties to let "refugees gradually come back, in particular the return of Azerbaijanis from the occupied territories."

"We congratulate the author of this report for his open-minded approach and spirit of consensus-building in the improvement of the provision dealing with the Karabagh conflict. His intervention was certainly decisive in preventing the adoption of the initial unbalanced version of the text," said the chairperson of the European Armenian Federation, Hilda Tchoboian.

"We are gratified that the terrible destruction of Armenian cultural heritage in Djoulfa was, at the very least, taken into consideration by an international institution such as the European Parliament. However, the annihilation of these sacred 'khatchkars' [carved stone crosses] by the Azerbaijani armed forces must be forcefully condemned and punished by European authorities, in particular the Council of the European Union. This desecration must be responded to at the same level as the international community's protest of the dynamiting of the Bamiyan Buddhas by Talibans in 2001," concluded Hilda Tchoboian.