FM to UNESCO: Don't allow theft of our heritage

Monasteries and churches of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) cannot belong to the so-called "Republic of Kosovo", FM Vuk Jeremić says.

Source: Tanjug
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Addressing the UNESCO General Conference in Paris on Monday, Jeremić stated: “In this organization, we are supposed to protect and nurture cultural identities, not be complicit in politicized attempts to carve up new ones."

As a member of UNESCO, Serbia will increase its efforts to safeguard at-risk cultural patrimony across the planet, the minister said.

This point affects Serbia most directly in its southern province of Kosovo and Metohija, which is home to four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Danger, and Serbia is responsible for their protection, he underscored.

“I would like to salute UNESCO's strictly status-neutral work in Kosovo. We would also like to thank the various donor countries for their help in conserving and rebuilding Serbian heritage under very complicated circumstances,” Jeremić said.

“In post-conflict environments, honoring everyone's identity is a pre-requisite for reconciliation, and excluding or negating a particular identity makes it impossible,” the Serbian minister said.

Unfortunately, he noted, some mistakenly believe such an approach will help confirm their political choices, but the only result has been to make Serbia the target of a systemic campaign of identity theft. He warned that this travesty must not be allowed to stand.

“Everyone knows that Serbs and (ethnic) Albanians disagree about Kosovo's final status. But I want to be very clear: UNESCO is not the forum for airing political disagreements, directly or through proxies,” Jeremić said.

At the same time, he called on UNESCO member states to support Serbia's candidacy for a seat on the World Heritage Committee.

Serbia's longstanding tradition of safeguarding patrimony goes back more than 165 year, Jeremić noted.

He recalled that in 1844, the country adopted a law entitled the Prohibition of the Destruction of Old Towns and Castles, and that over time, Serbia's local, provincial and national cultural heritage institutes have grown into a well-developed and widely respected network, second-to-none in Southeast Europe, which has been recognized on numerous occasions by various UNESCO bodies, including the World Heritage Committee itself.

If granted membership, Serbia would forcefully advocate for a credible, representative and balanced World Heritage List, thus further strengthening the integrity of the organization, Jeremić stated.

He recalled that Serbian President Boris Tadić recently hosted the Ninth UNESCO Summit of Southeast European Heads of State at the Roman archaeological site of Viminacium, one of the most culturally rich urban centers of the late Roman empire, a great crossroads that connected east with west, north with south.

“The large-scale rediscovery of Viminacium at the dawn of the 21st century stands as a powerful symbol of what the Balkans represent - a place where bridges across cultures are built and cherished,” Jeremić stated.

“It is with this in mind that the Republic of Serbia, a multi-cultural and multi-confessional democracy, has presented its candidacy for a seat on the UNESCO World Heritage Committee,” the Serbian minister concluded.

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