Lina Kutiefan: "Russia is interested in restoring Palmyra"

By Vestnik Kavkaza
Lina Kutiefan: "Russia is interested in restoring Palmyra"

The 43rd session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee is being held in Baku these days. In the framework of the session, 36 proposals are being considered for the inclusion of various cultural and natural properties from around the world to the World Heritage List. On the margins of this event, Vestnik Kavkaza spoke with the director of the World Heritage Sites Management at the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM), Lina Kutiefan, about the problems of preserving historical monuments in Syria.

- First of all, in your opinion, what contribution does cultural heritage make to the unity and inclusion of the Syrian people?

- Undoubtedly, cultural heritage can unite people. Such a serious experience exists around the world. We believe that the joint restoration of the common heritage will provide a good opportunity to unite the Syrian people.

- Has it already been established how many historical monuments were destroyed in Aleppo during the war?

- Unfortunately, we still do not have access to the city, so I can not provide accurate statistics. But we know that many cultural heritage sites have suffered, for example, The Church of Saint Simeon Stylites. The Ancient Villages of Northern Syria (there are about 40 between Idlib and Aleppo, 8 are in Aleppo) were destroyed during clashes and actions of local residents who used stones of monuments to restore their homes. There are so many destructions in this territory, which is a cultural landscape, that we cannot even assess their scale, especially without access to the area.

- Does the Syrian government have a plan to restore the destroyed objects?

- We have a strategy, but there is no funding, so the restoration process has not yet begun. And when it starts, it’s scale won’t be large. As for the entire territory of the country, we are still waiting for the right moment, because we do not have enough money and experts, there are too many obstacles to complete the work.

- How many sites in Aleppo are on the UNESCO World Heritage List?

- In Aleppo, there are two properties: the Ancient City of Aleppo and the Ancient Villages of Northern Syria.

- And how many such objects in Syria?

- There are five more properties throughout Syria: the Ancient  City of Damascus, the Ancient City of Basra. Site of Palmyra and two castles of Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din. The most damaged are the Ancient Cities of Aleppo and Palmyra.

- How do you assess the Baku session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee?

- It will certainly raise our awareness of what is happening in the world, how problems with destroyed objects are solved. People come together to save properties. We hold these conferences because every time we get a new experience.

- Do you work with Russian experts?

- Yes. I think that some of them will be engaged in the restoration of Palmyra. Russian organizations are interested in this site. At the same time, we do not have exact plans for cooperation.