Friday 9 April 2010

Cairo Conference Ends

The Cairo Conference “International Cooperation for the Protection and Repatriation of Cultural Heritage ” has now ended (Samer Al-Atrush, two days was not enough to establish everything that was apparently in the programme. The wish-list of artefacts to be returned was not as extensive as it might have been, "Egypt wants back six antiquities, including the Rosetta Stone from the British Museum and the Dendara Temple ceiling from the Louvre. Greece listed the Parthenon Marbles. Syria demanded five relics. Libya wants a statue of Apollo from the British Museum and a marble statue of a woman from the Louvre".

While the conference failed to arrive at an action plan, it produced lists from seven countries and will allow others to add to the tally over the next month after delegates report back to their governments. "I consider today a historic conference for all the world's countries that have lost artefacts", the archaeologist Zahi Hawass, who heads the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said. "We agreed to fight together. Cultural heritage has to return to its country. We are waiting for the other countries to present their wish list. Then we can go and fight. It doesn't mean that if you have a statue in the museum, you own the statue. No, it belongs to us".

But the conference, touted as the first of its kind, fell short of laying out a plan to retrieve the items.

Dr Hawass described international regulations on antiquities as "insufficient" but the conference did not call for an amendment to a United Nations convention on stolen antiquities that applies to thefts after 1970.
We will see what develops from this. Although there was no formal demand to amend the UNESCO Convention of 1970 concerning the protection and restitution of stolen artifacts which is, until now, not applicable to artifacts stolen before 1970. But Hawass told journalists: “We consider inviting representatives of UNESCO next year”.

This conference is the first of its kind and will be convened annully. Next year’s meeting is scheduled for April 2011 and will possibly be held in Greece. “We hope that we will be 60 countries next year,” Hawass concluded.

In the meanwhile it is interesting to note that assessments of how many nations were present differ greatly, some reports listed 21, others 22 and now we see reports of 25.

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