The Signing of the Yemen-United States Cultural Property Agreement

The Signing of the Yemen-United States Cultural Property Agreemen

August 30, 2023

Today, the Governments of Yemen and the United States signed a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) during an official ceremony at the United States Department of State to extend protections and expand practices for the preservation of Yemen’s cultural property. The agreement will be for a duration of five years and supersedes the last emergency import restrictions on Yemeni antiquities that were issued in February 2020.

This historic agreement was signed between His Excellency Mohammed Al-Hadhrami, Ambassador of Yemen to the US, and the Honorable Ms. Lee Satterfield, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs. The official signing ceremony was held at the National Museum of American Diplomacy at the State Department. And present with this signing ceremony was an ancient artifact from Yemen that has been repatriated to the Government of Yemen and loaned for temporary exhibit at the State Department which constitutes a fitting backdrop to this historic bilateral agreement that underscores the depth of Yemen-US relations.

In attendance at signing ceremony were senior officials from the US Government: the US Department of State (including with US Special Envoy to Yemen Mr. Timothy Lenderking), representatives from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, along with an array of distinguished guests from the foreign diplomatic corps., the Smithsonian Institution, the Antiquities Coalition, the National Council of US-Arab Relations, the National US-Arab Chambers of Commerce, the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, and from American academia.

The MoU effectuated today is the culmination of bilateral coordination efforts undertaken between the two governments. It builds upon Yemen’s accession achieved in September 2019 to the 1970 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Moreover, it is another successful milestone accomplished this year after the repatriation of 79 ancient Yemeni artifacts by the US Government.

Ambassador Al-Hadhrami expressed his deep gratitude to the US Government, particularly to the US Department of State as well as U.S. Department of Homeland Security, for their significant efforts exerted to reach this historic agreement. He furthermore said, “We will continue our close engagement with the U.S. Government in pursuit of the restitution of Yemen’s stolen cultural heritage and property that have been illegally possessed in the United States. And we look forward to sustaining our collaboration with federal and state authorities for all considerations towards the recovery and care of our precious cultural heritage.”

Ever since the Houthis’ coup in Yemen in 2014, our heritage and history have been under attack. In addition to the Houthi militias, other terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula have taken advantage of the current situation in Yemen by perpetrating pillage by looting, smuggling, and trading in Yemeni antiquities to finance their war effort and other appalling activities.

With the signing of this MoU, the black market is on notice that Yemen’s stolen cultural objects involve major legal restrictions and ramifications in the USA. Museums, art galleries, auction houses, private dealers, collectors, and all interested parties are advised to work closely with the Embassy of Yemen and US authorities to help protect Yemeni antiquities.

Today’s MoU will also help ensure the means and enhance the measures for the preservation of Yemen’s cultural property. The Yemeni Government appreciates the realization of this cultural property memorandum of understanding and looks forward to continuing our cooperation with our friends, partners, and collaborators in the United States, including academia, the museum community and recognized cultural institutions, like the Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to further promote and protect Yemen’s antiquities.

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