An international conference to address the trade in stolen antiques has begun in Cairo. Host nation Egypt is exhibiting several stolen antiquities recently returned to the country. The highlight is a 3,000 year old wooden sarcophagus that was recently intercepted by US customs officials and returned to Egypt.
The head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities explains the importance of focussing on museums to stop the illegal trade.
[Dr. Zahi Hawass, Egypt Supreme Council of Antiquities]: (male, English)
"Because museums are the main source for buying stolen artefacts. If museums stopped not to buy artefacts, actually the theft will be less. And we can control that.”
The United States representative responsible for cultural property investigations says there are improvements in international cooperation.
[James McAndrew, US Department of Homeland Security]: (male, English)
"It's getting easier from a law enforcement perspective because the countries as we see here are working very closely together. We've found and established ways to communicate. We understand each other's needs better. We understand each other's legal systems better, and as a result it empowers us to do a better job internationally. And that's why you see the increase in seizures and arrests and recoveries.”
The two-day conference brings together 21 countries. This includes states that traditionally serve as a market for stolen antiques, as well as the countries that the artefacts mainly originate from.
Syria's delegate to the conference repeats the sentiments of many states seeking greater cooperation from countries that are receiving the stolen goods.
[Ayman Slaiman, Syrian Directorate Antiquities and Museums]: (male, Arabic)
"This issue should be discussed at the international level, and light should be shed on it in full within the legal, political and security framework. [...]"