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Egypt calls for unity between restitution campaigns

Further coverage of the recent conference in Cairo [1] on the restitution of looted antiquities.

BBC News [2]

Page last updated at 23:31 GMT, Wednesday, 7 April 2010 00:31 UK
Egypt calls for antiquities unity

States which say artefacts have been stolen and displayed overseas should unite to recover their stolen heritage, Egypt’s top archaeologist has said.

Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), urged culture officials from around the world to draw up lists of missing items.

Some 20 countries are represented at the two-day conference in Cairo aimed at recovering artefacts from overseas.

The SCA wants many pharaonic items returned by Western museums.

“Museums are the main source for stolen artefacts,” he told delegates from countries including Libya, Greece, Italy, China and Peru.

“If they stop (buying stolen artefacts) the theft will be less.”

Stepped-up efforts

Mr Hawass told the delegates their nations needed to work together to recover their heritage.

“Every country is fighting alone, every country suffered alone, especially Egypt,” he said. “We will battle together.”

Representatives are also considering calling on the United Nations cultural body, Unesco, to amend a convention banning export and ownership of antiquities stolen after 1970 – so that they can pursue items that were snatched earlier, says the BBC’s Yolande Knell in Cairo.

In recent years, the Egyptian authorities have stepped up their efforts to recover stolen artefacts, with the head of the SCA, Zahi Hawass, attracting international attention for his efforts.

Last year, he broke off ties with the Louvre museum until France returned fragments chipped from a wall painting in an ancient Egyptian tomb.

He has repeatedly asked for the Rosetta Stone – which has been kept in the British Museum for more than 200 years – and a 3,400-year-old bust of Queen Nefertiti on display in Berlin, to be given back to Egypt.

Greece has long demanded that the Parthenon Marbles should be given back by the British Museum, while Peru is taking legal action to try to reclaim Inca treasures from Yale University in the United States.

Hurriyet (Turkey) [3]

Monday, May 10 2010 15:36 GMT+2
Countries seek return of looted antiquities
Thursday, April 8, 2010
LONDON – Daily News with wires

An international conference on recovering illicitly acquired antiquities began in Cairo with the participation of antiquities officials and deputy culture ministers from 16 countries, not including Turkey, daily Radikal reported Thursday, citing the BBC.

Egypt, the host of the two-day conference, aims to retrieve several precious artifacts dating back to the era of the pharaohs from Western museums.

Representatives from Greece, Syria, Iraq, Italy, Mexico and China are also seeking to devise strategies for recovering artifacts that are part of their cultural heritage from famous museums in Berlin, London and Paris.

A major objective of the conference is to call on the United Nations cultural body UNESCO to amend a 1970 convention banning the export or ownership of stolen antiquities acquired after that date, Agence France-Presse reported Wednesday. The convention prohibits the illicit import, export and sale of cultural property, but stipulates there will be no retroactive measures applied to artifacts acquired before the convention was signed.

Zahi Hawass, the head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities and the leading figure at the Cairo conference, urged delegates to draw up lists of artifacts missing from their countries and displayed in museums abroad.

Since becoming head of antiquities in 2002, Hawass has helped Egypt reclaim 31,000 relics from other countries. Last year, he insisted that “what has been stolen from us must be returned.” Egypt continues to seek the repatriation of the Rosetta stone held by the British Museum for more than 200 years and the 3,400-year-old bust of Queen Nefertiti on display at the Neues Museum in Berlin.

“This conference shows the importance many countries place in joining forces,” said Elena Korka, who is in charge of protecting Greece’s cultural heritage.

Korka confirmed that the return of the Elgin Marbles is Greece’s top priority. Athens has been locked in a 30-year antiquities “war” with London to retrieve them from the British Museum.

Turkey sent no representative to the conference.