UNESCO unanimously approves Russian resolution on Palmyra restoration

A general view shows the ancient Temple of Bel in the historical city of Palmyra © Gustau Nacarino
A Russia-drafted resolution on the role of UNESCO in restoring the devastated ancient city of Palmyra back to its former glory has been unanimously approved by the organization. The initiative comes as Russian sappers along with the Syrian Army work to revive the city.

The proposed document outlines the steps the organization is to take to return the site to its original state. The resolution titled “On the role of UNESCO in restoring and preserving Palmyra and other Syrian cultural heritage sites” was approved unanimously during the organization’s 199th session which is currently taking place in Paris.

Russia’s Permanent Delegate to UNESCO Eleonora Mitrofanova said the project is both of “practical” and “symbolic” importance.

READ MORE: Missing monuments: Before & After pics of Palmyra show what ISIS has destroyed

“The symbolism lies in the fact that having reached consensus on the issue means we are showing our unanimous solidarity to the people of the Syrian Arab Republic, suffering from the war. As for practical sense, it shows that we express our willingness to unite our forces and means necessary to restore and preserve Palmyra and other Syria’s World heritage sites,” Mitrofanova said.

She praised the voting results, saying they are a “huge victory.” Since the mooted document is “consensual” and focuses on the interests of the Syria’s World heritage sites, all the nations have voted in its favor, even those “that have a totally different outlook on the Syrian conflict”, she stressed.

The Russian delegation introduced the proposal to UNESCO Executive Board last Friday. The 199th session opened in Paris on April 4 and is set to last until April 15.

what's left of the Temple of Bel :( #Palmyra

A photo posted by Lizzie Phelan (@lizzie_phelan) on

Although the feeling of liberation is in the air, a lot needs to be done before the city is set back on track and can return to the normal course of events. The problems include the lack of electricity and water, not to mention the risk of encountering mines. Just recently Russian engineers have combed around 180 hectares in the city (about two square kilometers), defusing some 3,000 bombs, the Russian Defense Ministry reported.

“Beginning April 1, over 30 kilometers of roads and more than 182 hectares of land have been demined; 2,987 explosive objects have been unearthed,” Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said at a teleconference at the National Defense Control Center.

A field hospital has been set up to ensure the safety of locals slowly returning back home while humanitarian aid has been underway from Russian military.

“Footage shown on television recently shows our troops organizing the baking of bread. What we do is try to make life easier for the common people, so that they can breathe in and feel this truce,” Russia’s deputy defense minister, Anatoly Antonov said. “Enough with war, it’s time to build a new Syria.”

An RT journalist Lizzie Phelan was one of the first to set foot on the ground just a few days after the city’s liberation.

“There are craters in the ground all around this ancient site,” Phelan mentioned as she took a walk around Palmyra. “These were caused by landmines laid by ISIS and the soldiers said that most of the fighters they lost were due to these mines, which were often laid between stones to make them blend in,” she added.

READ MORE: ‘Palmyra damage monstrous, but mendable’: Experts accept challenging task to restore ancient city

Having been under jihadists’ occupation for almost a year Palmyra, a UNESCO World heritage site,was seriously damaged and lost a number of its unique monuments. Sadly, the city’s current appearance is totally incomparable to how it once looked before it was turned into an epicentre of the war.

However, locals seem to express hope that not everything is lost.

“The walls, the windows, and the door are also still there, and that’s enough for me to get my family ready to return to Palmyra,” a local resident said.

Experts also confirmed to RT that there indeed remains a chance the city could be restored.

“The damage done to Palmyra architectural monuments is enormous, but it has not been razed to the ground completely. The main symbol of the city, the famous columns, they are standing, and we now have to inspect the site accurately to determine what else is left there,” the director of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg Mikhail Piotrovsky told RT.

#breathtaking #Palmyra

A video posted by Lizzie Phelan (@lizzie_phelan) on

Meanwhile, the deputy director of Russia’s State Museum of Oriental Art, Tigran Mkrtychev, told RT that the international community must do its bit to help restore Palmyra because it is an important artifact for all humankind, not only the Syrian people.

“If we approach this issue strategically and make this monument a certain consolidation of the forces of the East and the West in restoration of the monument of a global importance, it [Palmyra] can become a ‘brand’ which will unite Eastern and Western civilizations for years to come,” he stressed.

Palmyra has been under jihadists’ occupation since May of 2015. The Syrian Army backed by Russian forces managed to recapture the city on March 27th, an event largely viewed as a victory and turning point in the war against terrorists.

A number of remarkable monuments including the Arch of Triumph, the Temple of Baalshamin and the iconic 2,000-year-old Bel Temple were left in ruins. The City of Palms has been left partly devastated and ridden with explosive devices.