Speech Presented by the Dr. Mohamed Ibrahim, Minister of Antiquities of the Arab Republic of Egypt at Signing of Public-Private Partnership with ICPEA
Monday 10Th of March 2014
Thank you Deborah,
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ambassador Mohamed Tawfik and the Embassy of Egypt in Washington D.C. for hosting this important event that marks the first public-private partnership addressing a serious challenge that the Egyptian people face, and concerns not only their past but also their identity and opportunity for future generations.
The international coalition, since its inception in March 2011, has shown great support and exerted utmost efforts to raise awareness and combat the looting and illegal trade of Egyptian antiquities and artifacts. In this context, I would like to thank Deborah Lehr for her leadership and genuine commitment to this cause.
The agreement we signed today outlines the many areas the coalition intends to assist Egypt in, without burdening its economy with any commitments. It also lays out the outline for several initiatives and we will work promptly on an action plan with the coalition on the first initiative to create a high tech and sophisticated inventory. The coalition will also work with numerous private and public entities, like the USAID, to implement these initiatives.
The agreement signed here today also reflects the seed for the international community to offer sustained and systematic assistance to Egypt in the areas of combatting looting and illicit trade of antiquities, museum development and job creation initiatives in the fields of antiquities and preserving historical sites.
I would like to take this opportunity to outline some of the aspects of my visit to Washington D.C.:
- I have met today with the representatives from eBay and the auction house Christies.
- I have submitted a request to EBay in which we have agreed that they will contact the ministry of antiquities to verify the authenticity and legality of any artifact before its listing on their website.
- EBay has agreed to delist more than 220 items at the request of the Egyptian authorities and through the Embassy of Egypt in Washington D.C.
- As for Christies, we agreed on working together to address all their activities in auctioning and selling Egyptian artifacts and antiquities.
- I am also scheduled to meet the Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs and Assistant Secretary for Cultural and Educational Affairs of the Department of State tomorrow.
As you all know, the United States market is the largest market for illegally traded antiquities, and we have seen many of our stolen and looted artifacts being sold on websites like EBay, which responded positively to our request to delist these items. The United States government has the responsibility to take all necessary measures to ensure that all our artifacts that are illegally traded be confiscated and returned to Egypt.
This is not only a legal obligation but also a moral one, especially in times of crises, and we have seen the United States act promptly right after the looting crisis in Iraq. Our heritage does not belong only to Egypt but is part of the global heritage of Humanity, and Egypt has never stopped sharing its treasures with the entire world, especially through our exhibits in different parts of the globe. I would like to also outline that there are many artifacts that we have succeeded, in cooperation with the relevant American authorities, to detect, confiscate and eventually return to Egypt, most recently of which encompassed eight pieces including ancient Egyptian coffins. These items will be shipped soon from New York to Cairo. We will be celebrating their return soon, and the public will be able to view them. We want to continue to have a closer cooperation with the United States in this area. This is the time for action and a time to show adequate political will and friendship. There is not time for bureaucratic red tape.
The Egyptian people have shown the world their commitment to preserving their identity and their commitment to freedom and democracy. We are on the path of democracy. We are on the path of implementing our roadmap… The roadmap to a better future…A future that preserves the past of Egypt for the coming generations, fulfills their aspirations and enhances the economic opportunities of their society.