UNESCO chief welcomes the liberation of Syria's Palmyra world heritage site

The Syrian archaeological site of Palmyra. Photo: ©UNESCO/F. Bandarin

24 March 2016 – The head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today welcomed the liberation of the Palmyra archeological site, a martyr city inscribed on the agency's World Heritage list.

“[Palmyra] carries the memory of the Syrian people, and the values of cultural diversity, tolerance and openness that have made this region a cradle of civilization," declared the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, in a statement.

“For one year, Palmyra has been a symbol of the cultural cleansing plaguing the Middle East. The dynamiting and pillage of its treasures, to break an entire society, sparked a unanimous indignation and strengthened the unprecedented mobilization in favor of the values that unite all humanity,” she added.

Ms. Bokova also warned that the destruction of temples of Baal Shamin and Bel, the funeral towers and the Triumphal Arch are an “immense loss” for the Syrian people and the world.

"As soon as security conditions allow, UNESCO is ready to go to Palmyra with those responsible for Syrian antiquities on a mission to evaluate damage and protect the priceless heritage of the city of Palmyra, crossroad of cultures since the dawn of humanity,” she underlined.

“The deliberate destruction of heritage is a war crime, and UNESCO will do everything in its power to document the damage so that these crimes do not go unpunished. I wish to remind all parties present of the absolute necessity to preserve this unique heritage as an essential condition for peace and the future of the region,” she concluded.

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