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Arab Parliament, UNESCO call for protecting Mideast heritage
May 16, 2015, 9:50 am

The Arab Parliament Friday called for the protection of Arab heritage and appealed for forming an international commission, co-sponsored by UN and its cultural organization (UNESCO), to protect cultural heritage. Arab Parliament President Ahmad Al-Jarwan said civilized heritage was threatened more than anytime in the past. Addressing a meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean in Rabat, Morocco, Al-Jarwan said the Arab world was facing huge challenges threatening its resources as well as its cultural and human heritage.

He cited systematic assault "of the will of the Palestinian people over the past decades, and the aggression by the occupation forces against Al-Quds, which aim at judaizing it and destroying holy city." Al-Jarwan, who commended Moroccan King Mohammad VI's efforts to stop destruction of Arab and Islamic culture, recalled calls made by Arab and international officials at an international conference in Cairo, Egypt, two days ago to prevent extremist groups from destroying civilized heritage in the Middle East as well as cracking down on smuggling of antiquities.

Meanwhile, Lebanon and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization called for saving international heritage sites especially in war zones, like the Middle East. The Lebanese Foreign Ministry and UNESCO, in a joint statement after a meeting between Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil and UNESCO's Director General Irina Bokova in Beirut, said it was highly important to protect cultural diversity and religious groups, particularly minorities, in the region.

They called for prosecuting people who committed "crimes against humanity and cultural ethnic cleansing," and to promote human values: tolerance and co-existence. Bokova, in a statement to reporters, voiced concern over the destruction of historic sites in Iraq and Syria." She said Lebanon and UNESCO agreed on importance of protecting heritage sites, and that their destruction was "unacceptable." UNESCO, added Bokova, "is very worried" because Islamic State (ISIL) militants were close to the Syrian city of Tadmur, home to the archeological site of Palmyra, one of the most important cultural sites in the Middle East. She said UNESCO and Lebanon decided to designate the historic town of Jbail as a center of inter-faith dialogue. 


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