April 12, 1999
Release No. 016-99

CONTACT: Catherine Stearns
PHONE: (202) 401-1190

United States InformationAgency- News Release



Washington, D.C.The United States today imposed an emergency import restriction on Byzantine ecclesiastical and ritual ethnological material from Cyprus unless such material is accompanied by an export permit issued by the Government of the Republic of Cyprus. Acting Director of the United States Information Agency, Penn Kemble, made the determination in support of this action after considering a recommendation from the Cultural Property Advisory Committee.

The emergency import restriction is in response to a request from the Government of the Republic of Cyprus seeking protection of its cultural heritage under Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Both the United States and Cyprus are parties to this Convention, an international framework of cooperation among nations to reduce the illicit movement of cultural property across international borders. Cyprus is the first country in the Mediterranean region to seek the help of the United States in protecting its cultural property.

Materials produced during the Byzantine period illustrate the high degree of artistic achievement on Cyprus and include some of the finest pieces of Byzantine art ever produced. International recognition of certain Byzantine monuments on the island is exemplified by their inscription on the World Heritage List. The categories of Byzantine ritual and ecclesiastical ethnological material subject to the import restriction include objects of metal, wood, ivory and bone, textiles, stone (mosaics), and frescos (wall paintings). They range in date from approximately the 4th century A.D. through approximately the 15th century A.D.

USIA, which oversees the U.S. role in protecting international cultural property, is the lead agency in carrying out decision-making responsibilities under the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act. The Act enables the United States to impose import restrictions on archaeological and ethnological material in accordance with the 1970 UNESCO Convention when pillage of such material causes jeopardy to the cultural heritage of the country of origin. USIA also supports the Cultural Property Advisory Committee, appointed by the President, in carrying out its responsibilities under the Act.

Further information about the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act can be found at the following Web site:

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The United States Information Agency, headed by Acting Director Penn Kemble, is an independent foreign affairs agency within the executive branch that explains and supports U.S. foreign policy and national security interests abroad through a wide range of information programs. The Agency promotes mutual understanding between the United States and other countries through a series of educational and cultural exchange activities.

USIA's programs include the Voice of America, Radio and TV Mart­, the WORLDNET satellite television system, the daily Washington File newswire, the Fulbright scholarship program, the International Visitor Program, the Speakers and Specialists Program, three Foreign Press Centers in the United States, and a network of overseas resource and cultural centers. The Agency has 190 posts in 141 countries.

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