The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) expressed on Monday its readiness to cooperate with UNESCO in combating intentional destruction and illegal trafficking of cultural heritage in the countries affected by armed conflicts.
OIC Secretary General Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen in an address to the 39th session of UNESCO's General Conference held in Paris applauded UNESCO's call for cultural heritage protection to be included in world programs and in the tasks of the peacekeeping missions.
The Secretary General noted that key among the topics of interest to the OIC is the combat against the phenomena of terrorism and violent extremism along with the tackling of religious and sectarian fanaticism.
He pointed out to the fact that in this respect, the OIC has launched its "Voice of Wisdom" project.
The project seeks to stand up to extremist discourse and to spread the concepts of tolerance and moderation. In addition, the OIC seeks to raise awareness among the youth as to the dangers of joining ranks with terrorist groups.
On another front, the OIC Secretary General strongly condemned the policies of the Israeli occupation power and its persistent attempts in occupied East Jerusalem to alter and disfigure its demographic layout with a view to isolate it from its authentic Palestinian environment. He therefore called on UNESCO to take the necessary and appropriate steps, within its mandate and responsibility, to ensure the protection and preservation of the historical and cultural heritage of the State of Palestine and to impress on Israel the need to put an end to its ongoing violations.
He also reiterated the imperative need to see to the implementation of all of UNESCO's resolutions and decisions relevant to the occupied Palestinian territories.
During his visit to Paris, the OIC Secretary General held a side meeting with Audrey Azoulay, the newly elected Director-General of UNESCO, where he congratulated her on her election. Both sides reiterated their commitment to further develop and strengthen the bilateral cooperation between the OIC and UNESCO to promote the protection of cultural heritage, access to quality education, information and communication and advance science and technology for sustainable development.
Dr. Al-Othaimeen also met with the OIC Ambassadorial group at UNESCO. He commanded the strategic role played by the OIC Group at UNESCO in defending Al-Quds Al-Sharif and the cultural property of Palestine thanks to its strong voting power in the governing bodies of UNESCO. He therefore urged the OIC Group to remain vigilant as attacks against al Quds al Sharif are still perpetrated by Israel.