07:38 GMT22 October 2020
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    A senior UNESCO official has told Sputnik about the fate of showpieces in the war-torn Iraq and Syria.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The process of smuggling of museum showpieces from Iraq to other countries has been put on hold, while the smuggled items should be returned back to the Middle Eastern country when they are found, Henrikas Algirdas Juskevicius, an adviser of the director-general of UNESCO, told Sputnik.

    "First of all, we should find the thieves. They say that several exhibit items have already been returned. But it is not an easy task, because people who steal, they steal not just to have a look, but to sell [the showpieces] and to earn a significant amount of money. It is pretty a big business," Juskevicius added.

    During the recent crisis in the Middle East, the jihadists have stolen a lot of objects exhibited in local museums, with some of these objects being destroyed, while others being sold abroad.

    On the Palmyra Restoration

    According to the official, UNESCO has not started working out the costs of restoring the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra but is actively engaged in issues related to the future of the city's monuments.

    "No, the cost calculation will be made after the status assessment of [Palmyra's monuments]. This is what the specialists of the Hermitage Museum are going to do, they would like to carry out the assessment. At the moment there are no even preliminary figures," Juskevicius said, adding that the UN agency is also engaged in the discussion of the future of Palmyra.

    The ancient ruins in Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, lost several important objects, such as the Temple of Bel, the Temple of Baalshamin, the Arch of Triumph and columns in the Valley of the Tombs during the first Daesh attack in 2015. 

    The city was then retaken by the Syrian government forces, however, fell under Daesh control once again in December 2016; the Syrian forces finally regained control of the city in March 2017.


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