Intervention by the Foreign Minister at High-Level Meeting on cultural heritage, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly

I would like to thank the Foreign Ministers of Jordan and Italy for hosting this event.

Last March, Cyprus led a cross-regional Statement on the protection of cultural heritage in armed conflicts in the framework of the Human Rights Council. It was co-sponsored by a staggering number of 146 members and observer states of the HRC, thus putting the issue of cultural heritage firmly in the Human Rights agenda.

In a few days, Cyprus, in collaboration with a core group of partners, will be presenting to the Thirty-Third Session of the HRC in Geneva, a comprehensive Resolution on “Cultural rights and the protection of cultural heritage” and I urge you to support it.

Cyprus also plans to bring this issue to the deliberations of the Council of Europe. During the Cyprus Presidency of the Council of Europe, between November 2016 to May 2017, we plan to organize a series of activities that would kick-start a new criminal law convention to combat illicit trafficking in cultural property.

Yet, what we see as imperative is the active role of the UN Security Council on this issue, and particularly on the crucial issue of the provenance of cultural artefacts.

As you are well-aware, a main obstacle encountered in securing the restitution of looted cultural property is the proof of identification by the claimant country, especially for objects that have not been inventoried or adequately documented.

The burden of proof must not fall to the claimant state for the blocking of auctioning suspicious objects and, eventually, for the restitution of artefacts.

Therefore, what we would like to see is a robust UNSC Resolution through which purchases of artefacts originating from conflict zones are not considered “bona fide” purchases.

A Resolution that would apply universal limitations on the trade and transfer of artefacts originating from all conflict zones, with the obligation of proof of legitimate trade resting upon the traders, auction houses and buyers and not on the originating state.

Source: Press and Information Office.