Minister of Culture and Tourism, Mr. Ersoy: Each work is meaningful and beautiful in its own homeland, where it belongs. This is our respect for the essence of cultural assets, our philosophy of approach.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism handed over two cultural assets of the People's Republic of China, which were given to the Fethiye Museum voluntarily by a British citizen.
A ceremony was held in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations with the participation of Minister of Culture and Tourism Mehmet Nuri Ersoy and Ambassador of China to Ankara Deng Li for the return of cultural properties.
Speaking at the ceremony, Mr. Ersoy, stated that cultural assets illuminate the past, are great works carrying the artistic value as well as contributing to science.
Stating that cultural assets should be considered as common values of all humanity in scientific and artistic terms, Mr. Ersoy said that the ownership of these works belongs to the states and opposing to the property rights is unlawful and unethical.
Pointing out that Turkey cooperates with People's Republic of China in many areas, Mr. Ersoy stated that protection of cultural properties and preventing illicit trafficking of such properties is one of these areas.
Mr. Ersoy declared that "Both countries are parties to the UNESCO Convention dated 1970 on measures to be taken to prevent the illegal import, export and ownership transfer of cultural assets. In addition, China and the Republic of Turkey signed a bilateral agreement for the prevention of trafficking of cultural properties in 2009. This is the 10th year of the agreement and the occasion that brought us together here today is a source of happiness for all of us.”
Stating that a foreigner brought two cultural assets to the Fethiye Museum and said that they were in his mother's house before she passed away and that his mother wanted them to be taken to her country with other belongings, Mr. Ersoy added the following:
"As a result of our examinations, we found out that the properties in question belong to the Chinese culture, then the photos of these properties were sent to the officials of the People's Republic of China through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and we asked them whether it is possible to obtain them legally. Officials of the People's Republic of China informed us with scientific reports that one of the properties, the fresco belonged to the Tang Dynasty which reigned between 618-907 AD and the statuette belonged to the Sui Dynasty, which reigned between 557-618 AD. Then the Ministry contacted the person owning the properties and explained the national and international dimensions of the issue and it was proposed to deliver the properties to the Ministry to be returned to the People's Republic of China.
Mr. Ersoy said that the person delivering the properties to the Ministry wanted his name to remain confidential, that he always acted in good faith from the beginning to the end of the process and that he did not want to be conducive to the looting of any cultural assets and agreed to transfer the properties to the People's Republic of China on a voluntary basis.
Mr. Ersoy emphasized that sales of the archaeological monuments, failure to notify the law enforcement officers with respect to location of such properties and keeping them without any permission is illegal and the perpetrators are sanctioned by severe punishments.
"Every work is meaningful in its homeland"
Pointing out that one should act very meticulously especially in terms of archaeological artifacts if one wants to purchase an archaeological artifact in countries where sales of archaeological artifacts are not prohibited, Minister Ersoy stated the following:
"If we are not sure whether a work was legally taken out of its country of origin, we need to keep in mind that purchasing such works will encourage the plundering of archaeological sites and contribute to the financing of international terrorism. The laws of the People's Republic of China, as our country's laws on this issue are quite clear; cultural assets are arranged in a way that will not allow their removal from the country of origin. Just like Turkey, the cultural assets are owned by the state in People's Republic of China, therefore I am more than happy to return these works which were displaced in unlawful ways. Each work is meaningful and beautiful in its own homeland, where it belongs. This is our respect for the essence of cultural assets, our philosophy of approach"
Mr. Ersoy thanked Ambassador Deng Li, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Directorate of Fethiye Museum and the British family for their ethical decision to return the properties.
Mr. Ersoy stated that many cultural properties were taken out of Turkey, these properties are followed very closely as soon as they are identified regardless of the cost of diplomatic and legal processes.
Mr. Ersoy, stated: "The Anti-Smuggling Section of our Ministry will become an official department in 2020. We will increase the number of specialists at least twice as much. We will follow-up the properties taken out abroad without authorization from Turkey more strictly.”
The Ambassador Deng Li said China and Turkey have long been cooperating for protection of the cultural heritage.
Indicating that the cultural properties returned to China is an example of this successful cooperation Mr. Li stated: "I’d like to thank Turkey for their dedicated efforts to return these properties back to our country."
After the speeches, Mr. Ersoy and Mr. Li signed the protocol for the return of the properties.
The properties that were transferred to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations from the Directorate of Fethiye Museum were put into the special boxes by the museum experts and sent to the People's Republic of China.