Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry asserted that Egypt’s recovery of the “Green Coffin” from the US is another Foreign Ministry success in restoring its civilizational heritage. He was speaking at a press conference held at the Foreign Ministry premises together with Tourism Minister Ahmed Issa.
Shoukry said Egypt has already received a green sarcophagus from the United States.
The US charge d’affairs in Cairo and Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) Mostafa Waziri attended the press conference.
Shoukry voiced happiness over the Foreign Ministry’s hosting of this important event to recover the green coffin.
The Green Coffin is the cover of a wooden coffin from ancient Egyptian times illegally smuggled out of the country.
The coffin lid is of exceptional size, more than three meters long, and is made of wood covered with hieroglyphic inscriptions.
The Egyptian foreign minister said the recovery of the green coffin came after strenuous efforts that extended for several years and in coordination among the Foreign Ministry, the diplomatic missions in the US, the Tourism and Antiquities Ministry as well as the Public Prosecutor’s office.
This matter asserted the’ State’s commitment to restoring its antiquities that were illegally smuggled outside the country, Shoukry noted, adding that this piece is a priceless and genuine part of Egypt’s civilizational heritage.
Every small or big piece of Egyptian antiquities represents a dear part of the history of Egypt and Egyptians, the foreign minister said, adding that the recovery of the green coffin is a reflection of cooperation between Egypt and the US in the field of protection of cultural possessions and return of Egypt’s smuggled antiquities.
He asserted that Egypt was among the first countries that approved the Hague Agreement of 1954 and the UNESCO Agreement for 1970 on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.
Shoukry stressed that Egypt was keen on clinching bilateral agreements with friendly countries to protect its cultural and antiquity heritage in a way that backs the special measures to restore the antiquities from many countries.
Shoukry announced that Egypt is seeking to expand the signing of similar agreements that could ease the return of smuggled antiquities from abroad, noting that Egypt has succeeded over the past ten years to bring back as many as 20,300 pieces of antiquities.
The top diplomat reiterated that Egypt attached great importance to the restoration of Egyptian antiquities from abroad in view of its importance to the humanity’s cultural and civilizational heritage.
Shoukry asserted that Egyptian diplomatic missions and consulates abroad have been directed to attach special importance to this important file and in pursuing the antiquities’ smugglers after coordination with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the Public Prosecutor’s office along with the Interior Ministry.
He made it clear that such successful efforts would beef up our will to go on with the track to restore the smuggled Egyptian antiquities in coordination with the State’s partners as regards exchange of data on the smuggling and trading of antiquities.
Addressing the conference, Tourism Minister Ahmed Issa asserted that the State gave great attention to the file of restoring the smuggled antiquities.
He said the restoration of the green sarcophagus from the US came after relentless efforts exerted by the Foreign Ministry, Tourism Ministry and the Public Prosecutor’s office over the past two years.
Issa said over the past years, Egypt has restored 29,300 pieces of antiquities including 5,300 that were smuggled in 2021 and 110 in 2022.
He said Egypt’s efforts in this regard have never been suspended as the constitution comprised three articles on the preservation, protection and maintenance of smuggled antiquies.
Meanwhile, SCA Secretary General Mostafa Waziri said the coffin lid dates back to the Ptolemaic period in Egypt (27th to 30 families). The over three-metre-long relic carries hieroglyphic inscriptions and has a green-coloured golden façade, adding that it weighs 500 kg and its width is 90 centimeters.
The coffin will be moved to the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square after it undergoes restoration operations, Waziri added.
Responding to a question about preserving the Egyptian cultural property, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that “The 1954 Hague Convention” or “The UNESCO Convention 1970” allows retrieving such artifacts and commitment of the signatory states on such treaties.
Egypt will continue its efforts to hold bilateral agreements with the friendly countries to deal easily with such case, he added.
“Our embassies abroad are closely following up such matter in cooperation with the Tourism Ministry and the Public Prosecution’s office to take the necessary legal measures to repatriate smuggled artifacts,” he added.
Shoukry, meanwhile, pointed out to the positive role played by the Vatican in returning several artifacts.