Friday, May 15, 2015

UNESCO chief, Sisi discuss looting, destruction of region's antiquities

 The head of UNESCO told Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi on Friday that she was ready to cooperate with the Egyptian authorities, a presidential spokesman said.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova met with El-Sisi a day after the inauguration of a two-day conference titled "Cultural Property Under Threat" in the Egyptian capital on Tuesday.

Bokova and El-Sisi discussed boosting cooperation between UNESCO and the Egyptian government, which dates back 1960s and has seen the UN agency playing a key role in saving Egypt's antiquities and in human development, presidential spokesman Alaa Youssef said.

The conference, organised jointly by the Antiquities Coalition, the Middle East institute and the Egyptian ministries of antiquities and foreign affairs, was held against the backdrop of the destruction by extremists in Iraq of ancient artefacts and temples, as well as the smuggling of antiquities in the region, including in Syria, Egypt and Libya.

During the talks, both officials condemned the destruction and looting of archaeological sites in the Middle East — namely by the Islamic State group in Iraq, as well as theft and destruction of antiquities in the region.

El-Sisi stressed that combating terrorism should not be restricted to military and security efforts, his spokesman said, highlighting the key cultural role UNESCO should play in this regard. He called for concerted international efforts to prevent the spread of extremist or violent ideas amongst young people.

"The destruction and looting of archaeological sites and museums have reached unprecedented levels. The destruction of cultural heritage, the cultural cleansing, is being used as a tactic of war to terrify populations, to finance criminal activities and to spread hatred," Bokova said a day earlier at the Cairo gathering.

Bokova invited the Egyptian president to attend a November conference that will mark the 70th anniversary of UNESCO, where the Egyptian leader was asked to give a keynote speech, the spokesman added.

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