Thank you Chair,
And a particular thanks to the briefers for sharing their assessments of the destruction of cultural heritage as a result of Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine.
We condemn the continued attacks by Russian forces against civilians, civilian infrastructure, and cultural heritage in Ukraine.
And we are concerned by reports of widespread destruction of: cultural heritage sites, religious buildings, theatres, libraries, museums, historic buildings and memorials – including the more than 160 sites verified by UNESCO.
We echo the call by the UNESCO Director-General, for attacks on Ukrainian cultural sites to stop, and for international humanitarian law to be respected. Cultural heritage, in all its forms, should not be targeted under any circumstances.
Norway calls for the protection of cultural heritage in accordance with the UNESCO Convention from 1954, the ‘Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict’- and the two associated protocols- and supports the ‘Declaration on the protection of cultural heritage in Ukraine’, adopted on 18 March.
We also emphasise the importance of respecting the commitments in the UNESCO Convention from 1970 on the ‘Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property’, as well as the 1972 Convention concerning the ‘Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage’.
Norway is also a strong supporter of the UNESCO Heritage Emergency Fund, and the work done in cooperation with UNITAR/UNOSAT in order to monitor the damages caused to cultural sites in Ukraine.
Furthermore, Norway commends the efforts by the Ukrainian government, and the Ukrainian people to identify, report, and document destruction of cultural heritage.
Such records will be essential to: ensuring effective investigation, that perpetrators are brought to justice, as well as for future reconstruction.
We also commend Ukrainian efforts– as reported by the OSCE commission– to protect both Ukrainian and Russian cultural heritage in accordance with obligations under international humanitarian law.
Before concluding, let me be clear: Russia must abide by its obligations under international law. It must immediately suspend its military operations and withdraw its troops from Ukraine.
The killing - and the destruction - must end.