Kasoulides: We need strong international restrictions on trade of art objects from areas of conflict

Kasoulides: We need strong international restrictions on trade of art objects from areas of conflict

We need a strong UN Security Council resolution, imposing ecumenical restrictions on trade and transfer of art objects from all areas of conflict, with the obligation of proving the legality of transactions to be vested in the merchants, auction houses and buyers than in the country of origin, said Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides, speaking Sunday at United Nations Headquarters, at the Ministerial meeting `Protecting Cultural Heritage – An Imperative for Humanity“.

The initiative was presented at the UN by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Italy and Jordan, with the participation of principals from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Interpol and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), as well as ministers from various Member States.

Kasoulides in his speech pointed out that one of the main obstacles to the return of cultural objects illegally exported is the proof of identity of the applicants countries.

Based on our own experience, he said, we see that in some cases, the objects illegally exported from Cyprus were not registered or sufficiently documented. Therefore, he added, it is difficult to prove their origin in the court, especially in some countries where the legislation provides that the proof of origin of an object is the responsibility of the applicant country.

The Foreign Minister stressed that it is very important that the burden of proof does not fall primarily in the State to: a) stop the auction of suspicious objects and b) return the objects. Perhaps, he said, we need a “Kimberley Process” (as in the case of “blood diamonds”) for cultural and religious objects looted in Iraq, in Syria or in other conflict zones.

At the same time, he added, we might need a new legal framework and a new international standard through which purchases by collectors of objects coming from conflict areas can not be considered as being made “in good faith”.

In this spirit, he said, we must take a further step from the resolutions of the Security Council that have been adopted until now. We need, he said, a strong resolution of the Security Council which will apply ecumenical restrictions on trade and transfer of objects from all areas of conflict.

He also stressed that it is extremely important the sale of cultural objects on the Internet to be strictly regulated at international level with the application of the same principles.