US and Egypt sign historic agreement to prevent the illegal trade of antiquities

Monday, May 22, 2017

The first bilateral agreement between the US and a Middle Eastern country concerning the protection of cultural heritage was signed late last year, establishing an important precedent in the fight against illegal trafficking of cultural property.

On November 30th 2016, US Secretary John Kerry and Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cultural heritage preservation. The agreement established a framework for restrictions on the importation of archaeological property into the United States. The objective of the agreement is to reduce incentives for the pillaging of archaeological and heritage sites and subsequent trafficking of looted antiquities in order to prevent such artefacts from leaving Egypt.

U.S. Secretary Kerry believes “It’s a good moment for Egypt, the United States, for the region, for us to make it clear that these antiquities are priceless treasures that do not belong to traffickers and crooks and should not be sold illegally and bought by wealthy people to hide away somewhere. They are the antiquities that belong to the world, that have been protected and should be protected by an old civilization. And so I think this is a great step forward.” (Antiquities Coalition).

According to Antiquities Coalition, between 2011 and 2013, Egypt lost over $3 billion in stolen antiquities due to looting of cultural property and trafficking. The so called Islamic State have also been extensively involved in the illicit antiquities trade, specifically in the Middle East and North Africa, generating millions of dollars in income. The two countries are hopeful that the newly signed agreement will foster cultural understanding between the United States and Egypt, and lead to greater cooperation between museums, international exhibitions, and preservation initiatives to protect Egypt’s cultural heritage.

The United States currently has bilateral agreements with 16 countries, half of which are located in Central and South America. Additionally, the U.S. has implemented emergency import restrictions on antiquities from Iraq and Syria.

More information:

National Geographic

Antiquities Coalition

US Government

*Image: Kenneth Garrett / National Geographic Society

Posted in: Heritage News


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