Cyprus and the United States Agree To Protect Cultural Property
July 19,2002, Washington, D.C.-- Seeking to stem the flow of illegal removal and exportation of Cypriot antiquities from the island, the Governments of the Republic of Cyprus and the United States signed on July 16, 2002 a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that restricts the import of archaeological objects from Cyprus to the USA.
"We thank the United States for recognizing the importance of protecting these antiquities so that not just our country, but all the world can enjoy the rich history of our island. This is a significant step toward stopping those who seek to steal from Cyprus a part of its cultural heritage," said Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, Cyprus' Ambassador to the United States.
Under the MOU, importation to the United States of certain pre-classical and classical antiquities from Cyprus will be restricted unless "the Government of the Republic of Cyprus issues a certification or other documentation which certifies that such exportation was not in violation of its laws." In addition, the United States will return to Cyprus any object covered under the MOU that has been forfeited to the U.S.
The MOU is a welcome instrument to protect highly prized Cypriot objects, valued in part because of the rich cultural heritage of the island that dates back 10,000 years. The great demand for these highly valued antiquities has attracted pillaging profiteers who seek to smuggle them out of the country.
This is not the first initiative taken by the U.S. to protect antiquities from Cyprus. On April 12, 1999, the U.S. issued an emergency import restriction on Byzantine ecclesiastical and ritual ethnological material from Cyprus in response to an increase in smuggling of such objects. Currently, Cyprus is one of ten countries with which the United States has signed MOUs with the purpose of protecting cultural objects.