Egypt: Suspension of ties with Louvre is not over UNESCO bid loss
Oct 8, 2009, 15:16 GMT
Cairo – Egyptian Minister of Culture Farouk Hosny said Thursday that the decision to suspend ties with the Louvre museum had nothing to do with his failed bid for the UNESCO top job last month.
Egypt announced Wednesday that it was suspending its ties with the Louvre museum in Paris in a row over allegedly stolen ancient antiquities.
‘Revenge is not part of my character, and the decision to break ties with the Louvre was taken by the permanent committee for antiquities and I had nothing to do with it,’ Hosny told reporters Thursday.
Hosny was seen as the front-runner for the Secretary-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization post, but he lost to Bulgaria’s Irina Bokova in the fifth and last round of voting.
‘As a minister, I cannot cut my ties with France because it is a great country that has cultural relations with Egypt, plus France did not have any negative effect on UNESCO’s elections results, since it was supporting the Egyptian candidate from the very beginning,’ added Hosny.
A statement from the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) in Cairo said that the decision was taken months ago, after the Louvre refused to return what Cairo calls stolen Pharaonic antiquities.
The dispute centres on four paintings which the SCA says were stolen in the 1980s from a tomb in the Egyptian city of Luxor. The Louvre was not abiding by the regulations issued by the SCA in 2002 which state that all museums must return stolen antiquities and not buy pieces proven to be stolen, Egypt’s antiquities chief Zahi Hawass said.
Egypt has launched a campaign in recent years to retrieve antiquities that had been illegally smuggled out of the country and displayed abroad. It has succeeded in bringing back thousands of pieces from different countries.
There are around 5,000 works of art and everyday objects spanning 4,000 years of Egyptian civilization displayed at the Louvre, many of them acquired during British colonial rule of Egypt.
In 2007, French authorities returned to Egypt a 3,200-year-old lock of hair from the pharaoh Ramses II that were stolen 30 years ago in France and were put up for sale on the internet.