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UAE Announces Global Alliance to Protect Cultural Antiquities from Conflict | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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ISIS militants destroyed ancient artifacts in Iraq from ancient sites that include Hatra, above, the group committed war crimes, the United Nations says. Above, Hatra on Dec. 6, 2002. Photo: Reuters

Abu Dhabi- International experts and government delegates met in Abu Dhabi, UAE On Saturday announcing an alliance including over 40 states and organizations dedicated to protect heritage sites from harm. The global alliance was built to protect cultural heritage threatened by extremism and conflict.

The alliance will fund protective measures and inhibit the illegal trade of artifacts.

After the conference was concluded, countries vowed to provide safekeeping for heritage and cultural relics, especially those threatened by armed conflict, or terrorism.

Based on governmental requests, the historical antiquities will be protected on national grounds local to the cultural background of the units, or be moved to neighboring countries for protection.

France and the United Arab Emirates led the initiative at a conference in Abu Dhabi to establish a global partnership that could respond to the destruction of ancient sites in Iraq and Syria.

Footage of hardline militant groups, such as ISIS, using sledgehammers, bulldozers and explosives to erase ancient cultural sites – some millennia old – they considered inappropriate and unholy have spurred the calls for action.

Representatives from dozens of countries began meeting in Abu Dhabi on Friday to discuss the creation of a $100-million fund to protect and restore heritage sites threatened by extremism and conflict.

The two-day conference reflects growing international alarm over the destruction of ancient artifacts by extremists.

The conference opened with calls by its Emirati, French and U.N. initiators for joint action to safeguard cultural treasures in danger.

Despite repeated assertions from extremist groups, Islam has never endorsed the destruction of heritage, said Dr. Mounir Bouchenaki, a prominent cultural heritage expert.

This verdict, reached by a group of eminent Islamic law experts in December 2001 at a UNESCO conference in Qatar, needs to be highlighted in the light of recent events in the Middle East, said Bouchenaki, former director of the World Heritage Center at UNESCO.

Bouchenaki explained that cultural heritage, including works of art and records, are often lost during conflicts as a result of the overall devastation. But there is also intentional burning of libraries, looting of museums and the illegal evacuation of archaeological sites, as evidenced during the Iraq War that began in 2003.