On 9 October, Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, and Prof. Mikhail Borisovich Piotrovskiy, General Director of the State Hermitage Museum of Saint Petersburg (Russian Federation), signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the protection and restoration of cultural property in conflict areas, notably in the Middle East.

Under this agreement, the State Hermitage Museum will provide support for the assessment of damage to cultural property, the devising of operational plans for urgent safeguarding measures, restoration of cultural property and technical supervision and training in order to assist national authorities. Individual “Project Agreements” will define the operational modalities of specific activities which will be implemented.

"We are very grateful for this cooperation for all what the Hermitage is bringing to us in terms of knowledge and expertise. This signature testifies to our shared responsibility towards preservation, history and future generations to protect heritage". Irina Bokova also stressed that the new partnership aligns with the objectives of the Strategy on the reinforcement of UNESCO’s action for the protection of culture and the promotion of cultural pluralism in the event of an armed conflict, adopted in 2015, and responds to a real necessity at a moment when areas previously under the control of terrorist organizations become accessible again.

"We have a lot of concrete projects to preserve heritage in conflict-affected countries and museums in particular, as they are living places of culture, education and history. Protection and Recovery are among the major priorities of our time and for UNESCO these are comparable to the safeguarding actions for Abu Simbel…."

The State Hermitage Museum, founded in 1764 and open to the public since 1852, is one of the most important museum in the world. Its collections, of which only a small part is on permanent display, comprise over three million items including sculptures, graphic works, applied art, archaeological artefacts, numismatic objects and the largest collection of paintings in the world. The museum welcomes every year more than three million visitors.