Cyprus Mail

Kasoulides: action needed to protect cultural heritage in conflict zones

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A strong UN Security Council resolution, imposing ecumenical restrictions on trade and transfer of art objects from all areas of conflict is needed along with the obligation of proving the legality of transactions to be vested in merchants, auction houses and buyers rather than the country of origin, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said.

Kasoulides was speaking on Sunday at United Nations Headquarters during the ministerial meeting `Protecting Cultural Heritage – An Imperative for Humanity’`.
The initiative was presented at the UN by the ministers of foreign affairs of Italy and Jordan, with the participation of principals from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Interpol and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), as well as ministers from various member states.
Kasoulides in his speech said one of the main obstacles to the return of cultural objects illegally exported was proof of identity by applicant countries.

Based on Cyprus’ experience, he said, in some cases the objects illegally exported from the island were not registered or sufficiently documented, making it difficult to prove their origin in court, especially in some countries where legislation provides that the proof of origin of an object is the responsibility of the applicant country.

He said it was very important that that the burden of proof did not fall primarily on the state to stop the auction of suspicious objects andreturn the objects.  He suggested a ‘Kimberley Process – as in the case  blood diamonds – for cultural and religious objects looted in Iraq, in Syria or in other conflict zones.
He added that a new legal framework and a new international standard might be the answer, through which purchases by collectors of objects coming from conflict areas cannot just be considered as being made “in good faith”.

“In this spirit we must take a step forward from the resolutions of the Security Council that have been adopted until now. We need a strong resolution of the Security Council which will apply ecumenical restrictions on trade and transfer of objects from all areas of conflict,” he said.
He also said it was extremely important the sale of cultural objects on the Internet to be strictly regulated at an international level with the application of the same principles.

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