Armenia is removing the traces belonging to Azerbaijan from the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh territory, the head of Azerbaijani Community of the Nagorno Karabakh region said in the capital Ankara on Monday.
"Armenian troops are currently trying to legitimize the results and consequences of the occupation, and that's why they are removing the traces belonging to Azerbaijan," Tural Ganjaliyev said in a panel -- titled Encountering internationally displaced persons (IDP) challenges: experience of Azerbaijan -- at Azerbaijan’s embassy in Turkey.
Ganjaliyev said Azerbaijanis have witnessed through the Google Earth and different satellite programs how the homes where they used to live in Nagorno-Karabakh -- as well as the historical and cultural monuments, religious places, such as mosques and cemeteries of family members -- are being demolished or changed by the Armenian troops at the occupied territories.
"They are destroying our heritage, they are trying to alter any traces belonging to us, they are changing the monuments, historic temples and religious monuments," he said, adding that this act is not only against the international humanitarian law, but also a crime against the humanity.
He said that when Armenian troops invaded Azerbaijani lands, they not only destroyed the Azerbaijani community's livelihoods, but also everything related to Azerbaijani people in occupied territories.
Noting that Azerbaijan always respected the culture and heritage of other ethnic groups, Ganjaliyev said the government of Azerbaijan preserved and protected the Armenian church in the center of Azerbaijan's capital city of Baku.
Ganjaliyev -- who was born in the Shusha province of Azerbaijan, which was invaded by Armenian troops when he was 12 years old -- said that before the territorial claims started, Azerbaijani people embraced Armenian community in Nagorno-Karabakh for at least 150 years.
"We embraced Armenians and we lived peacefully, we cohabited peacefully, and we had good relations," he said.
He stressed that some Armenian nationalists started to put claims against Azerbaijan's territorial integrity "starting in the last days" of the Soviet Union, and with its collapse, it "freed the hands" of the Armenian nationalists.
Starting from 1991, they began invading and occupying not only the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, but also the surrounding districts of Azerbaijan, where Armenians never lived.
He underlined that the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region has been "the cradle of art and culture" of Azerbaijan for years, from where many famous historians, philosophers, thinkers, composers and musicians came.
Ganjaliyev also highlighted that around one million Azerbaijani refugees and IDPs, who forcibly fled from the occupied territories, currently live in different Azerbaijani cities.
Also speaking at the panel, Farid Shafiyev, head of the Center for Analysis of International Relations (AIR) of Azerbaijan, a government-funded public organization, said that the "Armenian nationalist slogans of unification" started taking place in 1988.
Shafiyev said that with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Armenian nationalists "changed tactics" into territorial expansion claims, where "unification" changed into "claim of self-determination of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh".
"I believe the conflict could be resolved if third parties intervention from time-to-time [would] not made to the conflict resolution process," he said.
Among the attendees of the event were Azerbaijan’s Ambassador to Turkey Khazar Ibrahim, foreign mission heads and bureaucrats.
Nagorno-Karabakh is the internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan illegally occupied by Armenia through military aggression since 1991.
Four UN Security Council resolutions and two UN General Assembly resolutions, as well as decisions by many other international organizations, refer to this fact and demand withdrawal of the occupational Armenian forces from Nagorno-Karabakh and seven other occupied regions of Azerbaijan.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe refers to the region as being occupied by Armenian forces.
The Armenian occupation of the historical Azerbaijani lands led Turkey -- which sides with Baku in the conflict -- to close its frontier with Armenia.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk group -- co-chaired by France, Russia and the U.S. -- was formed to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, but has not reached any results yet.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.