* Art stash valued at 1 billion euros ($1.35 billion)
* Experts have one year to determine provenance of art
* Gurlitt to get back works found to be legally owned
By Monica Raymunt
BERLIN, April 7 Germany reached an agreement
with an elderly recluse on Monday on the future of a
billion-dollar art trove confiscated by authorities, part of
which is suspected of being stolen or extorted by the Nazis.
The federal government and Bavaria state said Cornelius
Gurlitt, 81, has agreed to cooperate with authorities to
determine if some of the 1,280 art works were stolen from their
original owners, many of whom were Jewish, during the Nazi era.
Gurlitt has agreed to waive the statute of limitations under
which his lawyers claim he is the rightful owner of some of the
artworks, which include masterpieces from artists such as Pablo
Picasso, Henri Matisse, Otto Dix and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.
"We're laying the groundwork for fair and just solutions,"
said Germany's Culture Minister Monika Gruetters in a statement.
"We're sending a clear signal to the outside world that we
won't allow Nazi injustice to continue 70 years after the end of
the war," she said.
The government has been heavily criticised - notably by
families whose relatives were robbed by the Nazis - for keeping
silent for almost two years about the trove of some 1,400 art
works after the paintings were found in Gurlitt's Munich flat.
The stash of paintings, drawings and sculptures has been
valued at 1 billion euros ($1.35 billion). In exchange for his
cooperation, Gurlitt will get back many of the other paintings
whose provenance is not in doubt.
Gurlitt, whose father took orders from Adolf Hitler to buy
and sell so-called 'degenerate art' to fund Nazi activities,
aroused suspicion in 2010 when German customs officials stopped
him on a train from Switzerland carrying a large sum of cash.
When authorities raided his apartment in February 2012 on
suspicion of tax evasion, they found the collection including
modernist and Renaissance masterpieces.
Gurlitt filed an appeal in February at the Augsburg court
that issued the search order, challenging the prosecutor's
seizure of the art works on suspicion of tax evasion.
The agreement follows an announcement from Gurlitt on Monday
that a second claimant has come forth seeking the return of
"Sitting Woman" by Matisse, which was slated to be returned to
the heirs of the late Paris art dealer Paul Rosenberg.
The "Schwabing Art Trove" Task Force, made up of
international art experts, has one year to determine the
provenance of the collection.
According to the agreement, works that haven't been examined
within one year will be returned to Gurlitt.
(Reporting By Monica Raymunt; Editing by Tom Heneghan)