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Russia hopes UNESCO will support draft resolution on Palmyra preservation — envoy

April 05, 2016, 16:56 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The resolution includes priority actions to assess the costs of the restoration of Palmyra and other historical monuments in Syria that are threatened

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© Valeriy Sharifulin/TASS

MOSCOW, April 5. /TASS/. Russia has submitted to the UNESCO member countries a draft resolution on the preservation of the Syrian ancient city of Palmyra and counts on the organization’s member states’ support, Russia’s Permanent Delegate to UNESCO Eleonora Mitrofanova said on Tuesday during a Moscow-Paris teleconference.

"The resolution includes priority actions to assess the costs of the restoration of Palmyra and other historical monuments in Syria that are threatened. We are trying to make it consensus-based, we are in the process of its coordination," the Russian ambassador said, adding that she believes that "the resolution is timely."

According to Mitrofanova, "UNESCO should respond quickly, and not only have a strategic plan, known to a small group of experts." "We count on [the draft resolution’s] support by the UNESCO member states", she said.

Palmyra, an ancient city in Syria’s Homs province, was under the control of militants of the Islamic State terrorist group (outlawed in Russia) since May 2015 and was liberated by the Syrian army on March 27, 2016, with support from the Russian air group and special operations forces. The city referred to as the "gem" of the Syrian Desert was one of the richest ancient civilization centers. The Silk Route ran through Palmyra located in an oasis some 240 kilometers from Damascus. The ruins of the ancient city have become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

On Sunday, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Islamic State gunmen obviously sought to destroy Syria and its people and the fact that they have planted mines all through Palmyra only proves it. "People who want to live in a country never behave this way," she said on the NTV TV channel. "This is behavior of those who seek to wipe out people living in this country." In her words, only those who don’t plan to go on living in Syria can destroy the monuments that constitute its national pride.

The Russian diplomat said that Russia invites the international community to join demining efforts in Palmyra. However, she noted, Russia often has to rely on its own forces. "We have referred a relevant draft document to UNESCO’s Executive Board," she said. "We hope countries will work on this document and it will be adopted. It should be done in a foreseeable perspective. We are looking at signing a Russia-UNESCO bilateral agreement on assistance. This document is being elaborated too."

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