Azerbaijan has started desecrating the graves of ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, the head of Armenia's mission to the European Union has claimed. (EPA-EFE/ROBIN UTRECHT)


Azerbaijan ‘desecrating graves in Nagorno-Karabakh’, says Armenian Ambassador


Azerbaijan is desecrating the graves of ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, according to Tigran Balayan, the Ambassador of Armenia to Belgium and the head of Armenia’s mission to the European Union.

Speaking to Brussels Signal on February 19, Tigran Balayan alleged that Azerbaijan has begun destroying religious artefacts belonging to the former Armenian population of the region, the vast majority of whom have since fled the territory.

This, said Balayan, who is originally from the captured region, includes Armenians’ graves.

“The war against Armenian cemeteries has started,” the official said during an interview with Justin Stares, Head of News at Brussels Signal.

“We have tons of video and photo evidence that they are starting to ruin the cemeteries in the villages and also the churches.”

Balayan went on to claim the country was also demolishing smaller churches across Nagorno-Karabakh, saying that the one in his native village had been destroyed.

Azerbaijan has, he added, also removed religious symbols from larger buildings.

“All the crosses from all Armenian churches in Nagorno-Karabakh were removed by occupying soldiers,” he said.

Balayan’s assertions stood in stark contrast to those made by Azerbaijani officials in recent weeks.

After a period of detente between the two Caucasus countries, tensions have once again spiked. That came after a clash on the border between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces saw four soldiers belonging to the latter killed.

Azerbaijan has alleged Armenia started the violence that led up to the fatal skirmish last week. Speaking to Brussels Signal, presidential representative Elchin Amirbayov insisted that his country remained committed to protecting the rights of ethnic Armenians in the disputed territory.

He added that Azerbaijan would “welcome back” any ethnic Armenians who had fled the region, describing them as being entitled to Azerbaijani citizenship in the same way other ethnic minorities in the country are.

That was rejected by Balayan, who instead said Azerbaijan had worked to prevent the return of ethnic Armenians to Nagorno-Karabakh.

“There were attempts by some people to return. They were rejected by Azerbaijan,” he insisted.

Balayan claimed that what he said were efforts to deprive ethnic Armenians of their right to return to Nagorno-Karabakh was part of a “very nasty” attempt to purge their influence from the region, accusing Azerbaijan of working to “ethnically cleanse” the Armenian population.