VII.55 Ancient City of Damascus (Syrian Arab Republic)
The Secretariat recalled that a mission of five experts visited the city of Damascus late 1995 and that their reports emphasized the tremendous investment on the part of the Syrian authorities for the conservation of the Mosque of the Omeyyades, but also expressed severe concern and reservations about the conservation and restoration approach and techniques.
In January 1996, UNESCO requested the Syrian authorities to stop the work immediately and to continue it only when in-depth studies would be carried out, and in accordance with international standards for the respect of authenticity. The same request was made by the Bureau during its twentieth session.
The Permanent Delegation of Syria informed the Secretariat that the work had indeed been suspended.
After being informed of the conclusions of UNESCO's expert mission fielded at the request of the Syrian authorities in November-December 1995 to the Mosque of the Omeyyades of Damascus, as well as the Report of the President of the Restoration Committee, the World Heritage Commit tee thanked the authorities of the Syrian Arab Republic for interrupting the work which it felt did not conform to the international standards for restoration and conservation.
It strongly advised that one or two international experts, proposed by the World Heritage Centre, be invited for a consultation to help evaluate the situation, decide on measures to be taken, and, should the need arise, determine the most appropriate manner in which to pursue further work which might be necessary. It recommended also that training of national specialists and technicians be considered in cooperation with ICCROM.
In this case, the Committee would of course be willing to contribute to financing the participation of these experts.