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Friday, December 11, 2015

Syrian antiquities chief says 'Sometimes NATO Ally' Turkey refuses to return looted art

Syrian antiquities chief says 'Sometimes NATO Ally' Turkey refuses to return looted art. (Reuters).

Syria's antiquities chief has accused Turkey of refusing to return looted objects from ancient heritage sites in Syria or to provide information about them, allegations denied by the Turkish government.

One museum at the 2,000-year-old Roman city of Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage site the jihadi militants took over in May, has been turned into an Islamic State prison and courtroom, Syria's antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim told Reuters.

Even more destructive for Syria's archaeological heritage are illicit excavations at sites such as Palmyra and the even older site of Mari, near the Iraqi border, he said.

Abdulkarim said more than 2,000 objects looted from these sites had been seized in Turkey, which in contrast to other countries neighboring Syria refuses to cooperate with the Syrian authorities on documenting and returning the artifacts.

"The Turkish government refuses to register (the seized objects). There is no information, no pictures. It's not transparent," Abdulkarim told Reuters in an interview in Vienna.

"They should change their approach. They told us, we cannot (do this) because our law (prohibits) us from declaring what we have," he said.

A Turkish Culture Ministry spokesman said Abdulkarim's allegations were "baseless".

 "Some Syrian antiquities may have been smuggled to Turkey ... We are doing our best to prevent such smuggling," he said. Looted goods are “coming out through Turkey and Beirut and then containered to who knows where”.

By the time an object gets to London, he says, it “has paperwork, internally, within Europe”. Hmmmm......I guess he should have a word with his Cypriot colleague he could tell him a story or two. Read the full story here.


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