Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan speaking at the closing session of the Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage Conference, in Abu Dhabi Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

The UAE called upon all countries to curb the illicit trade in antiquities and protect archaeological sites and cultural heritage from violence and terrorism during armed conflicts.

The call was made by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed at the closing session of the Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage Conference, a joint initiative of UAE and France, attended by a number of foreign heads of states, prime ministers and ministers.

The following is the full text of the speech by Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed:

"Your Highnesses, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is my pleasure to warmly welcome you all to the United Arab Emirates. I would also like to thank you for attending this conference and for your great interest in forging an effective global position on the protection and safeguarding of endangered cultural heritage in times of wars and conflicts. Your gathering reflects an international understanding of the imperative need to counter the growing menace against our human cultural heritage. I am also pleased to convey to all of you the greetings of His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, and his wishes for the success of this gathering.

Allow me on this occasion to express my deep gratitude and appreciation to Mr. Francois Hollande, President of France, who launched this initiative with us. This is not unexpected of our French friends who spared no effort to support culture and heritage around the word in line with their longstanding policy in this regard.

Distinguished Guests,

This conference gives us the chance to call upon governments worldwide to work together to safeguard global human heritage, which has been, as a result of civil wars, conflicts, terrorism and trafficking of antiquities by criminal gangs, more endangered than ever. These disruptions and crimes aim at erasing the memories of entire nations and destroying their human heritage. Needless to say, any damaging actions against our human heritage are rejected by all religions, norms and international charters.

Safeguarding human cultural heritage is not only the responsibility of a single society or state, but the responsibility of all governments and peoples of the world because what is at stake is the heritage of humanity as a whole.

The UAE's hosting of this conference is part of our longstanding policy of paying close attention to all issues of interest to humanity as a whole. We have also done our part by putting our own culture and heritage at the forefront of our attention. We have passed laws that are aimed at protecting and preserving our cultural heritage and collective memory. We in the UAE realise that our national heritage, which has been taking shape over millennia, is an integral part of our identity and who we are. We realise that our heritage is a key part of our national mosaic that we continue to build and enhance as we venture into the future; because it is our heritage that fuels the hearts and minds of our young as they make their way into the future.

We also realise that preserving our own heritage helps enrich human culture and heritage as a whole. Therefore, it is the responsibility of all of us towards future generations to protect our common heritage which will help make their world a richer one.

In this regard, I would like to commend the pioneering role played by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, in protecting all archaeological sites and places of historical significance, and in preserving human heritage across the globe, as well as in setting up relevant programmes and initiatives to preserve this heritage.

Distinguished Guests,

I would like to seize this opportunity to call upon every single country in the world to work together to bring the illicit antiquities trade under control, and confront the critical developments in this area in the past few years, especially the antiquities of some Arab states that have suffered from violence and terrorism. These antiquities and archaeological sites should be viewed as part of our common human heritage, which should not be subject to theft, trafficking or displacement
Your Highnesses, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,

I am fully confident that this conference will be a crucial turning point and milestone in international efforts towards safeguarding endangered global cultural heritage in times of war and conflicts, and that it will serve as an effective global framework for coordinating moves and initiatives in this direction, as well as a starting point for more efforts in the future.

Thank you all for your efforts in safeguarding our shared human cultural heritage around the world, and thank you for attending this important gathering."