10 Nations Band Together to Protect Cultural Heritage Sites Under Threat

The countries want to promote "dialogue in the face of fanaticism, and culture in the face of terrorism."

The remains of the entrance of the Temple of Bel in Palmyra, Syria. Photo: Maher Al Mounes/ Stringer/ Getty.
The remains of the entrance of the Temple of Bel in Palmyra, Syria.
Photo: Maher Al Mounes/ Stringer/ Getty.

Ten countries have banded together to form a new coalition that seeks to protect ancient heritage from extremism and senseless destruction. The announcement, made at the “Ancient Civilizations Forum” in Athens yesterday, April 24, is an international effort to combat ISIS’s on-going destruction of ancient sites in Syria and northern Iraq, including Palmyra, Nineveh, and Nimrud.

Iranian Minister of Foreign affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif, Chinese Minister of Foreign affairs Wang Yi, Greek Minister of Foreign affairs Nikos Kotzias, Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry and Iraqi Ministers of Foreign affairs Ibrahim al-Jaafari pose for a photo during the "Ancient Civilizations Forum" at the Zappeion Conference Hall, in Athens, on April 24, 2017.<br /> AFP PHOTO / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/Getty Images.

Iranian Minister of Foreign affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif, Chinese Minister of Foreign affairs Wang Yi, Greek Minister of Foreign affairs Nikos Kotzias, Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry and Iraqi Ministers of Foreign affairs Ibrahim al-Jaafari during the “Ancient Civilizations Forum” in Athens, on April 24, 2017.
AFP PHOTO / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/Getty Images.

The 10 participating countries include: Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Greece, Italy, China, India, Bolivia, Mexico, and Peru. The initiative’s specific plan of action remains vague, and it was not formally named in any of several reports. But the members plan to meet again in Bolivia next year, according to the AFP.

The project was spearheaded by the Greek and Chinese governments. Greek foreign minister Nikos Kotzias said the group would promote “dialogue in the face of fanaticism, and culture in the face of terrorism.” China’s foreign minister Wang Yi added: “We’re only just getting started.”

This is not the only high-profile new effort to combat cultural heritage destruction. Just last month, at a conference at the Louvre Museum in Paris hosted by Francois Hollande, the French president announced that a total of $75.5 million (€70 million) had been pledged for a UNESCO-backed fund to protect cultural heritage sites all over the world from war and terrorism. The funds were donated by seven countries and the American philanthropist Tom Kaplan.

In May 2015, ISIS fighters seized the ancient ruins in Palmyra and destroyed UNESCO World Heritage site temples. Syrian forces retook Palmyra last month, for the second time. Other sites that have come under attack from Islamic extremists include the Assyrian city of Nimrud in Iraq, pre-Islamic treasures in Mosul’s museum, Bamiyan, in Afghanistan, and Mali’s Timbuktu.


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