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Nations pledge millions to protect cultural heritage

A UNESCO-backed donor conference at the Louvre museum in Paris pledged US$75 million (around €70 million) on Monday for a new initiative to protect cultural heritage at risk from conflict and extremism.

French President Francois Hollande committed US$30 million to the fund, making France one of seven donors to the fund; the others include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Luxembourg, Morocco and Switzerland. Addressing the conference, Hollande rallied donors to raise an "ambitious" US$100 million by 2019. He also stated that France and Italy will propose a UN Security Council motion aimed at increasing cultural heritage protection.

Iraqi soldiers view Nimrud ruins (Getty Images/AFP/S. Hamed)

Iraqi soldiers view destruction caused by IS at the archaeological site of Nimrud

Announced in Abu Dhabi in December by Hollande and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the cultural protection fund was created in response to the recent theft and destruction of cultural artifacts and monuments across Syria and Iraq by extremist militant groups. Islamic State in particular has ransacked and damaged the ancient Syrian town of Palmyra, the Mosul museum in Iraq and the 13th century BC Assyrian capital of Nimrud, also in Iraq.

"At Bamiyan, Mosul, Palmyra, Timbuktu and elsewhere, fanatics have engaged in trafficking, looting and the destruction of cultural heritage, adding to the persecution of populations," said Hollande. Militant groups are targeting both people and cultural heritage sites for the same ends, the French President added. "[It’s] the same objective: to break what was there before in order to kill hope afterwards, to eradicate human and cultural diversity."

Palmyra's Arch of Triumph was destroyed by IS in 2015 (picture alliance/dpa/Y. Badawi/EPA)

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