By Jessie Bryson
U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Cyprus (ROC) Judith Garber and the ROC’s Permanent Secretary of Transport, Communications, and Works Stavros Michael signed the first bilateral agreement on cultural heritage protection, June 14. Intended to strengthen joint efforts to abolish the illicit trafficking of cultural antiquities and ethnological material from Cyprus, the agreement covers items from the 11th millennium B.C. through 1878 A.D. It protects ecclesiastical and architectural material, documents, manuscripts, clothing, and emblems of state.
The agreement, valid through 2027, is the latest achievement in a decades-long expansion of bilateral efforts to protect the cultural heritage of the Mediterranean’s third-largest island. In 1998, the Republic of Cyprus was the first European nation to approach the United States with a request to restrict the importation of its antiquities to prevent illicit trade of artifacts that date back to the Bronze Age—spanning the ancient Roman and Greek worlds, the Crusades, Italian shipping dominance in the Mediterranean, and Ottoman influence on the island. A five-year bilateral Memorandum of Understanding for the Protection of Cultural Heritage was signed in 2002 and subsequently renewed three times.
“The Agreement underscores our ongoing commitment to continue fighting together to stop illicit trafficking and protect the cultural heritage of Cyprus. It is the right thing to do and we are thrilled to partner with [the Republic of Cyprus] in doing it,” said Garber during the signing ceremony.
The Cyprus American Archeological Research Institute and the ROC Department of Antiquities, who were also present at the signing, are key embassy partners in these protection efforts.
Jessie Bryson is part of the Expanded Professional Associates Program in the public affairs section at Embassy Nicosia.