UNESCO Director-General opened the Expert meeting on the safeguarding of syria's heritage, with Maria Böhmer, Minister of State to the Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Germany.
"Berlin embodies the power of culture to bring people together”, said Irina Bokova.
More than 230 Syrian and international experts from all sides are joining forces to develop a common damage assessment and define priorities in emergency safeguarding measures for the sites affected by the conflict.
In her opening speech, the Director General recalled the fundamental principles guiding UNESCO's action in this area, recalling the sense of responsibility and respect for priorities in a country where the conflict is still underway.
"The priority is to conduct a comprehensive inventory of the damages, identify emergency safeguard measures to save what is possible, wherever possible", she said. "To succeed , we must bring together the best of international expertise, guided by the same spirit that culture should not be manipulated or instrumentalized, and I thank all Syrian and international experts who unite here for heritage : this is the spirit of Berlin. "
The Director-General paid a special tribute to all experts, associations and Syrian citizens who risk their lives everyday to protect heritage in conflict.
Several young Syrian researchers presented the results of a youth forum that was organized ahead of the meeting.
"This meeting represents the will of UNESCO and all the experts to work together, focusing on heritage as a common denominator to all Syrians, and a vector of dialogue and peace", she added.
Minister of state for Foreign Affairs Maria Böhmer said that "Heritage is now the point of convergence of many political, technical and social issues, and it is important to frame these discussions to move forward effectively. For this, we depend on the sound and factual assessment of experts, in an open debate, letting politics aside." said the minister
"We are concerned by the suffering of the Syrian people, and we want to help them regain their heritage, to shape the future ".
Minister Böhmer also stressed the commitment of the German government and the expertise of the German Archaeological Institute in this area. "Cultural heritage is the foundation of peace and security", she added.
The expert meeting for the safeguarding of Syrian Heritage will last until 4 June. Its objective is to produce a common vision of the situation and of emergency measures among the expert community. This meeting is also an opportunity to strengthen international cooperation and take stock of progress made - and unfinished tasks - two years after the first international emergency expert meeting on syria organized by UNESCO in 2014.