Call For Unity Among Countries Wanting To Recover Their Antiquities

By Dialogo
April 08, 2010

A conference on achieving restitution of “stolen” antiquities began Wednesday in Cairo with calls for unity among countries that, like Egypt, want to recover significant objects from their historical heritage that are scattered around the world. About twenty countries, including Bolivia, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico, are represented at this “conference for the restitution and protection of cultural heritage,” organized by the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA). “We should unite, cooperate, fight together. Up to now, our countries, especially Egypt, have suffered a great deal acting alone" in this struggle, declared the SCA’s head, Zahi Hawass, who arranged the conference. Hawass called on participating countries to present lists of objects taken abroad the return of which is considered a priority. At the top of Egypt’s list are the bust of Queen Nefertiti on display in Berlin and the Rosetta Stone, which made it possible to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics, held by the British Museum. The Greek representative, Elena Korka, head of the Cultural Property Protection Service, also expressed her desire that the conference “demonstrate the importance we ascribe to this subject and allow us to join forces.” For thirty years, Athens has been fighting for the restitution of part of the Parthenon friezes that are in London. In addition to compiling a list of objects sought, the conference will discuss “proposals and recommendations that will be presented to UNESCO with the objective of amending the convention on the restitution of antiquities to their countries of origin,” an SCA statement specified. This convention, which dates from 1970, has been invoked by a number of museums to justify their refusal to return objects in dispute, alleging that its provisions are not retroactive and that actions that took place prior to 1970 are not covered by it.