Turkey calls UNESCO for Syria historic monuments

Turkey calls UNESCO for Syria historic monuments

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey has appealed to UNESCO to protect historic monuments and places of worship in Syria after the minaret of the centuries-old Omar Mosque in Aleppo was destroyed in clashes between regime forces and the Syrian Free Army (FSA).

Turkey’s initiative was backed by the Arab League, the U.S., Canada and has been accepted despite counter arguments from China, Russia and Iran, who suggested that UNESCO was not the right venue for such an initiative.

Turkey’s Ambassador to UNESCO, Gürcan Balık, addressed the closing session of the UNESCO meeting and explained why this body was the right venue to make this bid. “As UNESCO, we have a responsibility to be the moral voice of the international community in areas of our organization’s competence. Therefore, we cannot wash away the gravity of the situation in Syria by not addressing it in this body,” he said.

Underlining that historic landmarks in Syria and places of worship for all religions were increasingly under attack, Balık said that so far hundreds of cultural properties of historical significance have been either damaged or destroyed by the Syrian regime forces, adding that, “what is unfolding in Syria is not limited only to cultural heritage issues.”

“The Syrian population is deprived of its basic rights, including the right to life, education, and freedom of expression. It is evident that the Syrian regime flagrantly breaches its obligations under international humanitarian law. This conduct is a clear and present breach of the inalienable rights that UNESCO stands for,” he said. “We urge the Syrian regime to respect its obligations under international humanitarian law with respect to the protection of historic monuments.”