The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, met today, at the Foreign Ministry, with US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Dr Philip Gordon. The US official is visiting Cyprus to take part in the meeting of the Political Directors, in the framework of the EU-USA dialogue.
Following the meeting between the Foreign Minister and Dr Gordon, a short ceremonial exchange of Diplomatic Notes marking the extension for a further five-year-period and amendment of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Republic of Cyprus and the United States of America, concerning the Imposition of Import Restrictions on pre-Classical and Classical Archaeological Objects and Byzantine and post-Byzantine Period Ecclesiastical and Ritual Ethnological Material, originating from Cyprus, was held.
In her brief remarks, the Foreign Affairs Minister said the following: “I would firstly like to warmly welcome US Assistant Secretary Philip Gordon and say how pleased I am that his visit to Cyprus coincides with the renewal of this important MoU that exemplifies our shared commitment in protecting the rich cultural heritage of Cyprus.
‘Today is a day we can all feel proud of, because we can say, with all modesty, that we have all played our small part in protecting a unique cultural heritage that has lasted for 10.000 years and we have a responsibility to see it survive for centuries to come for the benefit of all mankind’. With these words I concluded my remarks at the State Department a decade ago, when as the Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus in Washington, I had the privilege and the honour to sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Republic of Cyprus and the United States of America concerning the Imposition of Import Restrictions on pre-Classical and Classical Archaeological Objects. Today, I have the exact same sense of pride for both our Governments, as well as for the numerous individuals who have supported the renewal of this significant bilateral agreement.
In the decade that has passed since the initial signing of this MoU, its scope has gradually expanded to incorporate cultural artifacts from other historic periods of Cyprus: Byzantine period ecclesiastical and ritual ethnological material in August 2006, ancient coins in 2007, and today post-Byzantine period ecclesiastical and ritual ethnological material. The inclusion of the cultural objects of the post-Byzantine period constitutes a significant development if we take into account that the predominant majority of religious monuments in the occupied areas of Cyprus, which were once adorned with these unique treasures, are today desecrated and in most cases completely empty.
The renewal of the MoU is a collective achievement. I would like to thank the United States Government, through Assistant Secretary Philip Gordon, as well as all the involved personnel of the State Department, your colleagues at the Bureau for Cultural and Educational Affairs and the US Embassy in Nicosia, for their professionalism and dedication. I also express appreciation to the Department of Antiquities, the Law Office of the Republic, the Cyprus Police and the Department of Customs and Excise, representatives of which are with us today, for their significant contribution to this joint effort, as well as my own colleagues at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus in Washington. We also owe gratitude to the Church of Cyprus, the universities, museums, academics and individuals who have actively supported this effort.
The commitment of the Republic of Cyprus to protect its unique cultural heritage remains unwavering. The approach of successive Governments has always been that of an island-wide approach. Unfortunately, the continued Turkish military occupation of over a third of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus renders the competent Authorities of the Republic unable to take the necessary measures to protect and prevent the continuing pillage of its heritage in that area.
The Government of the Republic of Cyprus actively pursues the protection and repatriation of its plundered cultural heritage. To this aim we actively seek bilateral cooperation with other states and the support of international organizations. The United States of America remain a major arts market and the renewal of this MoU serves as a significant deterrent against the looting and illicit trafficking of Cypriot antiquities.
In ending, allow me again to express our deep gratitude to the US Government for its commitment to protecting this unique culture, which exemplifies the significant contribution of this small island to the common heritage of mankind.”
On his part, the US Assistant Secretary said: “I can also say that I am pleased to have an opportunity to do this. Our bilateral relations are strong, but being able to help Cyprus with an issue of importance to Cyprus and us, protecting your hugely rich cultural heritage, is something that is fostering even further the strong relationship that we already have. So, I am really delighted to be here and join for this.”