Urges U.S. Ambassador to Keep Pressing for Visit to Desecrated Christian Armenian Religious Site
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) has called on U.S. Ambassador to Baku Richard Morningstar to honor his commitment to the U.S. Senate to secure access to the site, in Djulfa, Nakhichevan, of the Azerbaijani government’s 2005 video-taped destruction of a medieval Armenian cemetery, which houses thousands of intricately carved Armenian stone-crosses (khatchkars).
In a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Baku on Nov. 5, Morningstar said that when he was recently in Nakhchivan, he “discussed at length with local authorities one such site in Djulfa, where, according to evidence from credible sources, an ancient Armenian cemetery was desecrated or destroyed. I regret that the authorities, citing security reasons, made it impossible for me to visit the site and personally see what is there.” The full text is available at http://photos.state.gov/libraries/azerbaijan/749085/press/Morningstar_cultural_heritage.pdf.
“Ambassador Morningstar cannot take no for an answer,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “He can either keep knocking on Ilham Aliyev’s door until this baseless ban is lifted, or simply travel to the site of the Djulfa cemetery on his own. Either way, it’s clear that, as Americans, we should neither sell arms to an Azerbaijani military that destroys cemeteries, nor send any aid to a government in Baku that blocks U.S. ambassadors from visiting sites of peace-time cultural desecration.”
In response to questions by Senators Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) during his confirmation hearing in June 2012, Morningstar had committed to “make every effort to visit the cemetery and that any kind of desecration such as that is unacceptable, outrageous, and I will do my best to get there, and soon.” He also said he would “amplify our concerns to the government of Azerbaijan and stress the need to respect and safeguard Armenian religious and cultural sites in Azerbaijan.”
In his recent statement regarding Djulfa, Morningstar spoke of Azerbaijan’s “diverse cultural heritage,” while remaining silent on the virulently anti-Armenia policies of the Aliyev government, including its escalating pattern of fatal cross-border attacks, and its recent pardon and promotion of Ramil Safarov, who axed to death an Armenian in his sleep during a 2004 NATO-sponsored peace training program in Hungary.
For more information about the history of the Djulfa Armenian cemetery and its destruction, during peace-time, by uniformed soldiers, acting under orders, visit www.djulfa.com.
For a timeline on the international response to the Djulfa Cemetery destruction and Azerbaijan’s obstruction of an investigation, visit www.anca.org/assets/graphics/2011/djulfa_timeline.pdf.