Will the USA Implement a New MoU With Turkey?

Turkey is rich of non-Islamic cultural objects and monuments like this mosaic from the Pammakaristos Church. The country has requested a Memorandum of Understanding with the United States to impose certain import restrictions on cultural goods with implications to religious minorities or their cultural property. Photo: Vmenkov / CC BY-SA 3.0
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The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) requested the Biden administration to freeze a cultural property Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Republic of Turkey in its first letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The MoU imposes import restrictions on cultural goods originating prior to 1924 or the formulation of the Turkish Republic, which has implications to religious minorities or cultural property of minority communities.

“Even though the State Department has agreed to Turkey’s request for a MoU, AHI is not disengaging on this issue, but rather, we have made it a priority,” AHI President Nick Larigakis said. “Because the MoU has yet to be implemented, we have the opportunity to make a difference. Our letter presents a legal and policy analysis highlighting the flaws and dangers of the MoU as well as how the administration can essentially ‘freeze’ it by not issuing implementing regulations.”

He added, “Under no circumstances should the United States give credibility to Turkey on its approach towards religious minorities or minority cultural property, especially as it continues to persecute the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”

The State Department agreed to Turkey’s MoU request on 19th January 2021, in the waning days of the Trump administration. AHI, in the past, had vigorously advocated against this request since January 2020 to the State Department and the Congress.

“It is essential for the MoU between the United States and Turkey be placed on hold and corrective measures be taken in the meantime to address the problems raised by this disturbing and flawed agreement,” Legislative Director Elias Gerasoulis said. “AHI is continuing to actively engage members of Congress, and its coalition partners, such as the Global Heritage Alliance (GHA), on finding constructive solutions.

Peter Tompa, executive director, Global Heritage Alliance (GHA), stated: “AHI has rightly requested that Secretary Blinken freeze or suspend implementation of the Trump State Department’s last-minute cultural property agreement with Turkey’ authoritarian government. By taking this action, AHI continues its strong efforts to ensure the State Department’s cultural preservation efforts take into account the interests of impacted populations and not just those of foreign governments and the archaeological organizations that excavate in these countries.”


To learn more about the American Hellenic Institute visit their website.