UNESCO Chief Welcomes Push to Liberate Ancient Syria City of Palmyra

UNESCO Chief Welcomes Push to Liberate Ancient Syria City of Palmyra
Fri Mar 25, 2016 12:25:56

Director General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Irina Bokova has hailed Syrian forces’ recent recapture of parts of the ancient city of Palmyra.

"I welcome the liberation of the Palmyra archeological site, … which carries the memory of the Syrian people, and the values of cultural diversity, tolerance and openness that have made this region a cradle of civilization," Bokova said on Thursday, hours after Syrian armed forces entered Palmyra (Tadmur in Arabic) following fierce clashes with Daesh (ISIS / ISIL) terrorists.

"For one year, Palmyra has been a symbol of the cultural cleansing plaguing the Middle East," the UNESCO chief added.

Daesh captured the ruins of Palymra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the adjacent modern city in May 2015, destroying ancient monuments there, including the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel and the iconic Arch of Triumph.

On Thursday, Syrian state television said government troops drove back Daesh militants and reached the “heart” of the city.

Army forces have retaken control of Palmyra’s hotel district as well as the farms situated west of the city.

Meanwhile, Maamoun Abdelkarim, Syria’s antiquities chief, praised the “imminent” liberation of the entire Palmyra, vowing to rebuild monuments destroyed by Daesh terrorists.

“The nightmare is nearly over, before it is too late, before the total destruction of the ancient city,” said Abdelkarim, who added, “I think this 10-month period has been the worst of our lives.”

Elsewhere in her remarks, Bokova said, "As soon as security conditions allow, UNESCO is ready to go to Palmyra with those responsible for Syrian antiquities on a mission to evaluate damage and protect the priceless heritage of the city."

"The deliberate destruction of heritage is a war crime,” she stressed.

Palmyra’s liberation would deal a significant blow to Daesh elements, who have been using the city as a road to the mostly terrorist-held province of Dayr al-Zawr in Syria’s east.

In recent months, Syrian army, backed by the Russian air power, has been making major gains against Takfiri groups, liberating several strategic areas from their grip, particularly in the strategic northern province of Aleppo.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has vowed that the army would cleanse the entire country of terrorist groups.

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