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Cyprus champions cultural heritage protection treaty

A treaty calling for the protection of cultural heritage – the first of its kind since it criminalises illicit trafficking – was opened for signature during a convention in Nicosia on Friday.

This is part of the Cyprus Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, according to an official announcement.

The Convention is the result of the initiative of Cyprus and aims at boosting the efforts to combat the trade of antiquities and cultural property.

“Today, the international community takes a crucial leap forward in the protection of our cultural heritage, especially in the efforts to combat the trade in blood antiquities by transnational organised crime and terrorist networks,” said Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides – Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

“Today, the Council of Europe opens for signature the only international treaty specifically dealing with the criminalisation of the illicit trafficking of cultural property,” he added.

The Convention on Offences relating to Cultural Property, the Nicosia Convention, establishes a number of criminal offences, including theft, unlawful excavation, importation and exportation, illegal acquisition and placing on the market and other such activities.

It also promotes international cooperation in this field and in essence, the Convention will effectively enhance the international legal frameworks against cultural trafficking.

The protection of cultural heritage has been a priority for Cyprus, a priority we pursued in the Human Rights Council and other fora, and very importantly, during the Cyprus Chairmanship of the Council of Europe.

“I would like to express my sincere appreciation to our colleagues in Strasbourg, who intensified their work during the last few months, so that we would be ready to sign the Convention today (Friday),” Kasouldies also said.

“I would also like to thank Armenia, Greece, Portugal, San Marino and Mexico for signing the Convention today (Friday),” he added.

Kasoulides called on states to sign and ratify the Nicosia Convention as soon as possible saying the responsibility to protect cultural heritage and the heritage of mankind is collective.

The Nicosia Convention was signed on Friday by Cyprus, Armenia, Greece, Portugal, San Marino and Mexico and will come in force after its ratification by the national Parliaments of five states.

Cyprus’ Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe ends on Friday and Czech Republic is taking over.

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