Paris, 15 February – UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova has called for increased vigilance from national and international authorities, art dealers and collectors following reports of the theft of several important relics from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and other sites throughout the country.
“It is particularly important to verify the origin of cultural property that might be imported, exported and/or offered for sale, especially on the internet,” the Director-General said. “This heritage is part of humanity’s history and Egypt’s identity. It must not be allowed to vanish into unscrupulous hands, or run the risk of being damaged or even destroyed.
“UNESCO will be working closely with its international partners in this field, including INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization (WCO), the International Centre for the Study and restoration of Cultural property (ICCROM) and the International Council of Museums (ICOM) to prevent this from happening.
“But I would also call on security forces, customs agents, art dealers, collectors and local populations everywhere – to do their utmost to recover these invaluable pieces and return them to their rightful home.
“Every possible measure must also be taken to provide the security necessary to protect Egypt’s heritage sites and prevent any further thefts.”
Egyptian authorities reported during the weekend that at several important pieces, including a gilded wood statue of Tutankhamen being carried by a goddess, had been stolen from the museum and that one of its warehouses had been broken into.
The Director-General stressed that illicit traffic is forbidden under UNESCO’s 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property and the 1995 Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects.
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