Twenty-six countries, among them Greece, have joined forces in a coordinated campaign for the return of their stolen antiquities, during an international conference in Cairo this week on recovering stolen ancient artefacts from abroad attended by antiquities officials, deputy culture ministers and museum directors.
The first step of the initiative is to draft a catalogue containing the priority stolen antiquities that the countries are demanding be repatriated, while the conference delegates also discussed proposals and recommendations that will be submitted to United Nations’ cultural body, UNESCO, aiming at amendment of a 1970 convention banning the ownership or export of stolen antiquities acquired after that date in order to facilitate the repatriation of the antiquities to their countries of origin.
Seven delegate countries — Egypt, Greece, Guatemala, Libya, Nigeria, Peru and Syria — of the 22 countries in attendance at the Cairo conference, have already submitted their lists with the antiquities designated as “top priority” they seek to be returned, while the remaining countries have a month to submit their own lists, according to Egypt’s antiquities chief Dr. Zahi Hawass, secretary general of the country’s Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA).
For Greece, the priority continues to be the return of the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum, which it has been campaigning for over the past 30 years.
Announcing the expanded campaign at a joint press conference with the officials from the US, Greece and Italy, Hawass noted that “Greece was fighting alone, and Italy was fighting alone”, but “now, for the first time, we are united…we will fight together”.
Greece’s representative Elena Korka, who heads the country’s cultural heritage protection directorate, told reporters that the Cairo conference “shows the importance many countries place on this matter and enables us to join forces”.