Turkey, Greece to cooperate in returning stolen artifacts

Turkey, Greece to cooperate in returning stolen artifacts

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey, Greece to cooperate in returning stolen artifacts

Ertuğrul Günay says 3,327 pieces of artifacts were returned to Turkey since 2008. Among them were Troy artifacts.

Turkey and Greece are set to sign an agreement to cooperate in bids to facilitate the return of stolen artifacts to their respective countries, Culture Minister Ertuğrul Günay has said, adding that his government was also collaborating with Interpol to prevent the sale of stolen paintings through auctions.

“We recently signed an agreement with Bulgaria. My Greek counterpart is planning to pay a visit to Turkey soon and we plan to sign the agreement then,” Günay told media outlets in Ankara late Sept. 10.

Turkey was recently successful in returning some ancient Troy artifacts from the American University of Pennsylvania Museum as part of a massive campaign to reclaim its cultural heritage spread to four corners of the world. According to Günay, 3,327 pieces of artifacts were returned to their original homeland since 2008 as the result of intense governmental efforts.

The ministry’s works to identify and begin legal actions in facilitating the return of artifacts has, however, caused concern among international collectors and museums, Günay said. Some of institutions housing once stolen artifacts agreed to return the identified pieces have requested that the issue be kept to a singular event rather than turned into a regional matter. The institutions have concerns over what future reactions from Greece and Egypt will be. The minister said Turkey’s aggressive campaign to claim its own history is being closely followed by a few other countries, including Poland and Serbia.

“We will continue to chase after our artifacts,” Günay said, noting that this chase includes lost paintings that number more than 200, according to figures. The minister said pieces submitted to international auctions are also under surveillance and if an artifact perviously belonging to Turkey is believed to be found among these lists, appeals will be made to Interpol to stop the sale of the item.

“Returning these artifacts to their home is a very concrete achievement and that’s how we can find ourselves in the media as well,” Günay said, recalling how Troy treasures blew up in newspaper headlines when they were returned for display in their original home country.

Not to run for İzmir
Günay, a former social democrat politician who completed five years as the culture and tourism minister for the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, has already hinted that he will not seek another term as minister. He has been frequently mentioned as the AKP’s potential candidate to run for mayor of Antalya or İzmir in the upcoming local elections in late 2013.

However, Günay has denied rumors he would run for İzmir mayor. “No, no, by no means,” he said. The minister was recently booed in İzmir in an incident that hinted he might not be a strong favorite among residents. Recently the governor banned a traditional flag raising ceremony on Sept. 9, the day celebrating when İzmir was saved from occupying Greek forces in 1922. Günay had said the ban was the fault of the İzmir Republican People’s Party (CHP) municipality for not including the flag raising ceremony in the program and produced documents to prove his claim.

“When I had read this in the newspaper I immediately intervened to include this tradition in the program. This is one of the most important rituals symbolizing the end of the Independence War, commenced on May 19, 1919. How can we drop such an important thing from an official program?” he said at the time.