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United Nations urged to ban trade of Syrian antiquities

United Nations urged to ban trade of Syrian antiquities
Government tanks sit idle in the recently recaptured town of Adra Al-Omaliya near Damascus, Syria. The U.N. has been urged to ban the trade of Syrian antiquities amid reports of looting in the region. (Youssef Badawi / EPA)

The United Nations is being urged to enact a ban on the trade of Syrian antiquities following numerous reports of looting in the war-torn country.

An open letter that was recently published online is asking the U.N. Security Council to take action against the trade of artifacts that have been illegally taken from World Heritage and other sites in Syria. "An international trade ban will help strip these antiquities of much of their financial value and disincentivise the looting," the letter states.

The letter, which has been signed by a number of scholars and academics, also refers to the U.N. Security Council's 2003 decision to discourage the trading of artifacts looted in Iraq: "It needs to do the same for Syria now."

Reports from Syria have indicated looting of antiquities at all six of the country's World Heritage Sites. Some accounts have stated that Syrian rebels are looting sites in order to fund their military operations. Like many countries in the Middle East region, Syria is rich with artifacts dating from thousands of years in the past.

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The Times ran an opinion piece in 2013 urging people not to  purchase Syrian antiquities. The piece noted that some of these artifacts have even surfaced online.

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The online letter is signed by Dr. Amr al-Azm, the former director of Science and Conservation Laboratories at the General Department of Antiquities and Museums in Syria.

The letter states that it is open to signatures from professionals involved in the fields of antiquities or arts.

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT

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