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VIENNA, December 9. /TASS/. Russian Ministry of Culture believes the ending of hostilities in Syria is essential for a launch of tangible efforts to restore the ruined monuments in Palmyra, Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky said here on Friday.
"Dr. Piotrovsky (Mikhail Piotrovsky, Director General of the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg - TASS) and I visited Palmyra in May," he said. "We saw with our own eyes the situation there was awful. Before any serious restoration begins there, it’s important to stop combat operations."
He said it in a comment on Dr. Piotrovsky’s recommendation to the Culture Ministry to initiate the setting-up of a commission that will coordinate the restoration efforts in Palmyra.
"We support the idea and our Ministry’s commission made a trip to Palmyra during last summer," Medinsky said, adding that a multitude of historic monuments in Palmyra needed restoration but it was impossible to launch the works amidst artillery shelling.
Dr. Piotrovsky made public an idea for the Culture Ministry to initiate the setting-up of a commission for restoration of the monuments of history and culture in Syria. He said it on December 2 while addressing the International Cultural Forum in St Petersburg.
"A very big number of people are taking part in an effort to remind the world, to raise alarm in the whole world in order to rally some sort of assistance to the restoration of Syrian monuments," Dr. Piotrovsky said.
"A necessity to coordinate efforts is already ripe and that’s why I’d like to start off with an initiative to set up a special commission that will steer assistance to the restoration of monuments in Syria," he said. "It should include the archeologists who have already worked in Palmyra."
He recalled that the Russian archeologists had gathered data for creating a unique 3D map of the antique city that would, hopefully, help with the restoration of ancient monuments.
"A commission of this kind might be very useful and I’d like to ask the Ministry of Culture to take on the role of an initiator of the motion," Dr. Piotrovsky said.
Palmyra, known in Arabic as Tadmur, was a blossoming oasis city at the crossroads of trading routes in the Syrian Desert. The peak of its flourishing fell on the 1st century BC and the first three centuries AD. Location between Damascus and the Euphrates assured its importance in terms of commercial, military and religious influence.
Like many historic sites of early antiquity, Palmyra sprang to fame in the 18th century. Regular excavations there began in the 1920’s.
The artefacts founds on the territory of the city and in its necropolis are on display in the Palmyra Museum, as well as in many museum collections of worldwide significance. UNESCO placed the Palmyra architectural compound on its official World Heritage List.
Islamic State militants destroyed or severely damaged many sites in Palmyra from May 2015 through to March 2016 when the city was under their control. Dr. Irina Bokova, the UNESCO Director General qualified the destructions committed by IS there as war crimes.
Russian scientific and museum communities, and particularly the experts working for the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg offered assistance to the Syrian government and UNESCO in restoring the Palmyra monuments almost immediately after the IS had abandoned the place.