Turkish authorities on Friday returned 80 ancient artifacts ranging from silk carpets to candle holders to Iraq, about 11 years after they were seized from smugglers.
The artifacts were found in the possession of smugglers as they were about to be smuggled through Cilvegözü, a border crossing between Syria and Turkey.
Authorities had moved them to an archaeology museum in Hatay where Cilvegözü is located, where they were preserved.
After it was identified as Iraqi origin and Iraq formally made a request for their return, the process finalized on Friday and Culture and Tourism Ministry officials handed them to Iraqi officials at a ceremony in Hatay.
Artifacts include 20 silk carpets, 49 pieces of furniture, two primitive heaters, two pieces of a door, a closet, two chests and four candle holders.
A cylindrical seal of Iraqi origin dating back to 2,000 B.C. which was discovered to be Iraqi origin and was kept in a museum in Ankara, was also handed over to Iraqi authorities at the ceremony.
Speaking at the handover ceremony, Deputy Culture and Tourism Minister Nadir Alpaslan said the government has been sensitive against artifact smuggling and against the relocation of cultural heritage. "Turkey itself is a victim of this. We live in a country with a rich history and culture but unfortunately, many artifacts were smuggled abroad from our country," he pointed out.
Iraqi Ambassador Hassan al-Janabi said at the ceremony that Turkey and Iraq signed a protocol to prevent the smuggling of artifacts. Thanking Turkish officials, the ambassador said Iraq was now pursuing the retrieval of artifacts smuggled by the Daesh terrorist group, which "tried to destroy Iraq's cultural heritage."
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