Syria eyes Western help in restoring Palmyra artifacts

Syria is looking forward to Western assistance in restoring artifacts damaged by militants in the ancient city of Palmyra, the country's antiquities chief said on Friday.

"I hope that Western countries especially Germany will play a vital role in restoring what was damaged in Palmyra," Maamoun Abdulkarim told dpa from Damascus.

Last week, Syrian government forces backed by Russian airstrikes recaptured Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, from the extremist militia group Islamic State, marking a major victory for the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Abdulkarim said that 80 per cent of the city's ruins above ground are in good shape.

"But we do not know yet about those under the ground. We need to know if there are mines there. Explosives experts will have to check thoroughly."

Abdulkarim said that government antiquities experts are now in Palmyra to survey the damage wrought by extremists on artifacts there.

"Work will start as soon as possible on pieces that can be restored," he said.

"I am happy that some of the artifacts inside the Palmyra Museum can be restored. It will be like a human being who had his face burnt and surgeons will have to work on it."

After seizing Palmyra in the central Homs province in May 2015, Islamic State destroyed some of its most famous monuments, including the more than 2,000-year-old Baalshamin Temple.

Government officials have said that the radical group had also damaged Palmyra's infrastructure facilities.

"The service facilities and infrastructure in Palmyra have sustained severe damage due to the terrorist attacks," Homs Governor Talal al-Barazi said during a tour of the historic city on Thursday, according to Syrian state television.

"Restoring services may take several weeks."

Al-Barazi added that repairing the city's electricity, water and communication networks could start as soon as military engineering units complete their current dismantling of explosive devices and mines, which were planted by militants across the city.

Russian demining experts arrived Thursday in Syria to help clear mines in Palmyra.

The recapture of the city is the most significant advance by al-Assad's forces against Islamic State since Russian airstrikes - criticized by Western countries for their impact on more mainstream rebels - were launched in September 2015.

Last update: Fri, 01/04/2016 - 17:56

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