Azerbaijan to appeal to UNESCO over illegal archaeological activity in occupied lands
- 24 February 2017
Azerbaijan will once again raise at UNESCO the issue of illegal archaeological activity in its occupied territories, Hikmat Hajiyev, spokesman for the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, told APA on Friday.
Hajiyev said that Dr. Yolanda Fernandez-Jalvo (National Museum of Natural History of Spain), Dr. Tania King (Blandford Town Museum, UK) and Dr. Peter Andrews (Natural History Museum, UK) have for some time been conducting illegal archaeological excavations in the Azykh Cave, located in the Armenia-occupied Khojavand district of Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hikmat Hajiyev said in a statement to APA on Friday.
He noted that these individuals have illegally crossed the state border of Azerbaijan, without a license of the country’s relevant authorities and been conducting illegal excavations at the site of the Azykh Cave. They have in a covert manner transported away the archeological findings by evading from Azerbaijan’s customs control.
Such illegal actions by these persons are a gross violation of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, stressed Hajiyev.
“By taking these illegal actions, they have violated Azerbaijan’s laws as well as the UNESCO Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict with Regulations for the Execution of the Convention 1954 and the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property 1970,” he said.
“And the Second Protocol to the Hague Convention of 1954 further expanded the scope of protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict 1999. Article 9 of the Protocol states that a Party in occupation of the whole or part of the territory of another Party shall prohibit and prevent in relation to the occupied territory any illicit export, other removal or transfer of ownership of cultural property, any archaeological excavation, save where this is strictly required to safeguard, record or preserve cultural property, and any alteration to, or change of use of, cultural property which is intended to conceal or destroy cultural, historical or scientific evidence,” Hajiyev continued.
The Foreign Ministry spokesperson regretted that the National Museum of Natural History of Spain and the British Blandford Town Museum do not take necessary measures to prevent their employees’ actions contrary to Azerbaijan’s laws and the international conventions.
“Though our diplomatic missions several times warned these persons and the museums they worked in, they ignored it. Their activities can be compared to the archaeological looting conducted in late 19th and early 20th centuries in colonial territories and in Iraq in 2003,” said Hajiyev, noting that those calling themselves scientific figures should not be engaged in plundering, theft and falsification of material-cultural monuments.
According to him, one of the “leaders” of the illegal excavations conducted in the Azykh Cave is Levon Yepiskoposyan, an employee of the Institute of Molecular Biology of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia.
Hajiyev went on to say that in 2016 Springer publishing house published a book titled “Azokh Caves and the Transcaucasian Corridor” about the archaeological excavations illegally carried out by foreign nationals in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.
He noted that the Azerbaijani Prosecutor General's Office has filed a criminal case into illegal activities of these persons and is taking the necessary operational and investigative actions.
Hajiyev added that the countries where they hold citizenship will be informed through diplomatic channels about the criminal case initiated against them, and this issue will once again be raised at UNESCO.