Pristina writes to ICOM calling for Serbia to return artifacts; Belgrade: Abuse of culture and international forums

ministarstvo kulture i informisanja
FOTO: N1

„We are witnessing another serious sham of both the provisional institutions in Pristina and the so-called National Museum of Kosovo“, the Serbian Ministry of Culture and Information reacted on Friday, after Pristina sent another request „to return the artifacts that were taken during 1998 and 1999 to Kosovo“.

After writing to the National Museum in Belgrade at the end of May, the director of the National Museum of Kosovo, Ajet Leci, also sent a letter to the International Council of Museums (ICOM).

„Serbia is obligated to return the artifacts that were taken during 1998 and 1999,“ Leci wrote, Pristina-based Koha reports.

The Ministry of Culture and Information of Serbia reacted on the same day.

„It is a case of abuse of culture and international forums, as well as deceiving the public with the exclusive goal of promoting the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo and fabricating the false legitimacy of alleged institutions,“ this ministry emphasized.

“How can something belong to an institution that did not even exist in 1998 and 1999?” – they wondered.

How many institutions in the field of culture performed their activities on the territory of the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija before 1999? Which institutions were allowed to continue their work in the same territory after June 1999?

The ministry also assessed that this is an attempt to divert attention from the „real threat to Serbian cultural heritage in Kosovo, which is under constant threat, from physical destruction and desecration to falsification and appropriation, which is well recognized internationally.“

The Ministry also stated that they expect Pristina to „cover up the failure to fulfill its obligations and the absence of rights for the Serb people and heritage with idle words about rights and obligations – as per the established pattern.“

They called on all organizations dealing with the protection of cultural heritage not to „fall for such pressures“, but to continue their work in accordance with international law, professional criteria, and facts.

„The goal of such attempts is transparent, by repeating phrases which express nothing but an unscrupulous desire to promote one’s own political goals, to turn claims that are obviously meaningless to anyone, both laymen and experts, into something normal or convincing,“ the Ministry of Culture and Information added.

„They are obviously unconvincing to anyone who remembers what happened a few years back, unforgettable images of the terrible destruction of cultural and religious heritage, and to anyone who knows anything about current events in Kosovo, where endangering both rights and heritage is a difficult and sad everyday life for the Serbian people,“ they stated.

The Ministry of Culture and Information underlined that it remains committed to the protection of cultural heritage „from all attacks and attempts at abuse“ and will not allow such attempts to go unanswered.

On May 20th, the director of the National Museum of Kosovo, Ajet Leci, sent a letter to the National Museum in Belgrade, the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade, and the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SANU), requesting the return of artifacts for which he claimed were „unjustly“ kept in Serbia.

The Kosovo Office sent a reply to Leci at the time, stating that these artifacts are a cultural treasure of the state of Serbia and that Kosovo has not been recognized. This Office furthermore stressed that Kosovan authorities have shown that they are endangering cultural heritage and that this issue should be discussed within the EU-mediated dialogue.

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