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Russian envoy: UNESCO resolution to contribute to restoration of Syrian cultural heritage

April 13, 2016, 17:52 UTC+3 PARIS

The document endorsed on Tuesday calls on the UNESCO director general to unite the international community to render assistance to Syria

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© Valeriy Sharifulin/TASS

PARIS, April 13. /TASS/. The passing of the Russia-initiated resolution on Syria by the UNESCO Executive Board will facilitate the process of restoring the cultural heritage of this country, Russia’s Ambassador to this international organization Eleonora Mitrofanova told TASS on Wednesday.

"Russia managed to develop a consensus document together with the rest of the UN Security Council member-countries," she said. "It is very important that, despite the differences in the assessments of the Middle East crisis, we were able to avoid the politicization of the problem of restoring Syria’s cultural heritage. Eventually, the UNESCO Executive Board unanimously supported the resolution."

The document endorsed on Tuesday calls on the UNESCO director general to unite the international community to render assistance to Syria and send a mission of international experts to Palmyra and other Syrian cultural and historical sites affected by the conflict.

Assessing damage in Palmyra

"So far, demining activities are underway in Palmyra. Experts will be sent to the area as soon as the necessary security conditions are created," Mitrofanova said. According to her, the initial task will be to assess the damage inflicted by gunmen. "Unfortunately, the Islamists’ actions were deliberate. They were directly involved in looting cultural heritage objects and their illegal shipment from archaeological sites, museums, libraries and archives," she noted. The proceeds from their black market sales were used to finance the activities to recruit new gunmen and carry out terrorist attacks.

"Since Palmyra’s capture by militants of the so-called Islamic State (IS) many cultural monuments have been destroyed," said Maamoun Abdul-Karim, the Director General of Syria’s Antiquities and Museums Directorate. "The Islamists blew up Bel and Baalshamin temples and the ancient Arch of Triumph. A local museum as well as the ancient necropoleis were looted." After IS vandals "black diggers" took their turn to put local valuables to the sack.

Earlier, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova hailed the liberation of the ancient city. "I welcome the liberation of the Palmyra archeological site, the martyr city inscribed on the UNESCO world heritage list, which carries the memory of the Syrian people and the values of cultural diversity, tolerance and openness that have made this region the cradle of civilization," Bokova said.

Palmyra, an ancient city in Syria’s Homs province, was under the control of Islamic State militants 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 of Damascus. Palmyra’s architectural museum complex has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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