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UN says 17 World Heritage sites in Arab region are in danger

A man walks past a giant mural depicting boys running after a wheel in Dubai. (AFP)

The new head of the UN cultural agency warned Thursday that 17 of the 82 World Heritage sites in the Arab region are on its “danger” list because of conflicts.

Audrey Azoulay, who took the helm of the educational, scientific and cultural agency known as UNESCO earlier this month, said over 100 sites across Iraq have been damaged. She told a UN Security Council meeting Thursday on the destruction and trafficking of cultural heritage by terrorists and during conflicts that all six World Heritage sites in Syria have been “severely affected” including Palmyra and Aleppo, one of the world’s oldest cities.

Azoulay praised the council’s adoption in March of a resolution condemning the unlawful destruction of cultural heritage and warning the Islamic State extremist group, al-Qaida and other combatants that such attacks may constitute war crimes. The resolution expands previous measures which were limited to the illicit trafficking in looted cultural items to fund terrorism and focused on Iraq and Syria.

Azoulay called the measure “a major breakthrough” that “testifies to a new awareness on the importance of culture, not only to respond to conflicts but also to prevent radicalization and fight violent extremism.” She called for all countries to implement the resolution, improve data collection and information sharing on trafficking routes, and better damage assessments. (AP)

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