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Russia’s Hermitage Museum, UNESCO agree to safeguard cultural valuables in war zones

Russia’s State Hermitage Museum and UNESCO have inked a memorandum on cooperating to protect items of cultural value in armed conflict zones, in particular, in the Middle East

PARIS, October 9. /TASS/. Russia’s State Hermitage Museum and UNESCO have inked a memorandum on cooperating to protect items of cultural value in armed conflict zones, in particular, in the Middle East. It was signed by Hermitage Museum Director General, Mikhail Piotrovsky, and UNESCO Head Irina Bokova.

The parties concurred that they would assess the damage and its risks to cultural property, particularly in emergency situations. In addition, they agreed to devise plans to take urgent measures to protect cultural facilities and carry out technical supervision and restoration of cultural valuables, including movable and immovable assets.

Starting point

Bokova noted at the memorandum signing ceremony at the UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris that the deal is "a major step towards joint efforts to protect and restore valuable cultural artefacts." "I am certain that your experience and knowledge will help us make good progress along these lines," she said turning to Piotrovsky.

The Hermitage Museum director highlighted in an interview with TASS that, “although this is a memorandum on cooperation regarding the protection of monuments in conflict zones, in this case it is dedicated to Syria.” “This is the first step, with the help of which we are embarking on an international campaign to restore, reconstruct and revive the cultural life associated with monuments, in particular, in Syria,” he said.

According to Piotrovsky, "the memorandum will be valid for five years, but this is not the most important thing." "The most important thing now is that a starting point in our cooperation has been established," he stressed.

Beginning with the revival of museums

"The next stage for us is the cultural forum in St. Petersburg," the Hermitage Museum director said. "Now that we have joined this large-scale UNESCO-sponsored campaign, at the cultural forum in St. Petersburg we will present the most accurate 3D map of Palmyra made by our colleagues to our Syrian friends."

"We will also present a book about Palmyra written by a true hero Khalid Asaad (a Syrian archeologist killed by terrorists in 2015 - TASS) and translated from Arabic," Piotrovsky added.

In addition to that, "work is underway on a series of business agreements with German, Canadian counterparts on specific steps concerning work in Syria." "We believe that everything should start with reviving the museums in Palmyra, Damascus and other areas," Piotrovsky said.

According to the Hermitage Museum director, from the practical point of view, "the issue at hand is training restoration artists and concerted efforts by Russian and Syrian experts." "We believe that now it is necessary to train young people so that we can look into the future safely," he said.

Focusing on protecting valuable cultural artefacts

Piotrovsky noted that "everyone agrees that cultural heritage sites should be protected." "Culture has its own rights, they need to be protected, and that should be the focus of attention for mankind," he concluded.

The memorandum signing ceremony was also attended by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov, Russian Permanent Delegate to UNESCO Alexander Kuznetsov and Executive Secretary of the Russian Commission for UNESCO Affairs, Grigory Ordzhonikidze.