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Source: UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
11 April 2002
The Director-General of UNESCO launches an appeal for the protection of historic, cultural and religious heritage in the Palestinian autonomous towns

Alarmed by the threats to which historic, cultural and religious heritage is being exposed through the violent ongoing fighting in the main Palestinian autonomous towns, the Director-General has written to the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Shimon Peres, and to the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mr Yasser Arafat.

In his two letters, the Director-General appeals for every effort to be made “to respect the sacred character of religious sites, not only those known as the ‘Holy Places’, but also all those built around them in this region, which was the cradle of civilizations and which is (…) the symbol of our shared humanity”.

Recalling that “these monuments - churches, monasteries, synagogues and mosques - were built by men and women of good faith, who were convinced of the possibility of a better life for all”, Mr Matsuura urges that every possible measure be taken not to “kill this age-old hope”. He calls on the State of Israel, as a party to the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, to do everything within its power to ensure compliance with this Convention in all the Palestinian autonomous territories. “This cultural heritage is the most striking symbol of the fruitful interaction between peoples, cultures and religions. In destroying it, we jeopardize the future”.

Emphasizing that “the choice today is between a headlong descent into the abyss and what may be the last chance for peace in the region”, the Director-General expressed his readiness to lend his services to “any mediation that might help to save lives and irreplaceable monuments and create the conditions for the resumption of a dialogue based on mutual respect”.

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