ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece will give Iraq financial aid and expertise to help reconstruct its looted and war- stricken museums, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyanni said on Tuesday.
Iraq had thousands of priceless antiquities plundered after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Most were stolen from Baghdad’s National Museum or damaged in the war, while others were removed from poorly-guarded archaeological sites across the country.
Bakoyanni, who met Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari in Athens to discuss developments in the Middle East, said Greece wanted to intensify cultural cooperation with Iraq.
“Greece, with its great sensitivity to this issue, will offer its expertise and financial help to Iraq to restore its museums,” Bakoyannis said, according to a ministry statement.
Greece has long campaigned to recover ancient treasures taken from its own archaeological sites, including the Pantheon marbles held in the British Museum.
Bakoyanni and Zebari also agreed to erect a monument to Alexander the Great in ancient Gaugamela in northern Iraq, where the legendary Macedonian king defeated Persian emperor Darius III in 331 BC in a battle that heralded the demise of the Persian empire.
“We think the monument to Alexander is a great idea...It shows the cultural interaction in all sectors between the two countries and their people,” said Zebari.
“We asked the minister to help us protect Iraq’s culture... We need such support from an ally country like Greece.”
The U.S. government pledged this month nearly $700,000 to help restore the ancient Mesopotamian city of Babylon in Iraq, which the World Monuments Fund said had been damaged by occupying U.S. troops using it as a military base.
Reporting by Renee Maltezou