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Cyprus counts on international efforts to save its cultural heritage
2003-11-03 10:52:56

by Apostolis Zoupaniotis

United Nations, Nov 1 (CNA) --- Cyprus counts on international efforts to protect ecumenical civilisation to contribute in saving the archaeological and ecclesiastical monuments and landmarks manifesting the rich cultural historical background of the island, Cyprus Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Andreas Mavroyiannis stressed.

Addressing the UN General Assembly on agenda item 24 entitled ''Return or Restitution of Cultural Property to the Countries of Origin'', Mavroyiannis noted that the cultural heritage of Cyprus' Turkish occupied north is being ''barbarically violated''.

''An ancient civilization that dates back 10,000 years continues to suffer under foreign occupation and monuments and religious treasures are left to the mercy of vandals and looters'', he added.

The Cypriot diplomat stressed that Cyprus' painful experience of the systematic destruction of its cultural heritage and its continuing struggle to save its stolen heritage from the international black market brings to the forefront the need for enhanced international cooperation against illicit art trafficking and for strengthening national cultural property legislation.

''We hope that the considerable efforts of the International Community in the direction of returning cultural objects illegally removed from their rightful owners will be extended towards the salvation of these unique structures of human civilisation'', he added.

Mavroyiannis expressed the view that the destruction of cultural heritage is an old scourge that needs to be eradicated collectively by the international community in close cooperation with UNESCO, as well as other relevant UN bodies and multilateral institutions.

He also referred to the most recent renewal of a bilateral agreement between Cyprus and the United States on import restrictions of Byzantine ecclesiastical and ritual ethnological material from Cyprus, unless such material is accompanied by an export permit issued by the Government of Cyprus.

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