HERITAGE: Four fragments of looted frescoes to be returned to Cyprus

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Four fragments of looted frescoes are to be handed back to the Republic of Cyprus after they were recovered by international NGO Walk of Truth.

Transport, Communications and Works Minister Vassiliki Anastasiadou will accept the fragments for repatriation on behalf of Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades during a ceremony which will take place at the Cyprus Embassy in the Hague.

Two of the four frescoes have been identified as belonging to the church of Panagia Apsinthiotissa, a Greek Orthodox monastery situated in the Turkish-held north of the island.

The fragments portray Virgin Mary attending the deposition of Christ and an image of a martyr.

The exact provenance of the other two frescoes is not known, but they have also been identified as Cypriot.

The uncontrolled situation in the Turkish-occupied area of Cyprus after the Turkish invasion in 1974 has fostered the development of a network of dealers in illicit antiquities whose aim was to sell out the cultural heritage of Cyprus.

With the encouragement and help of the Turkish army, the trade in illicit antiquities has brought great profit to those involved, and Cypriot treasures already adorn private collections in countries including; Turkey, Russia, Switzerland, Holland, the UK, and even as far as the US, Australia and Japan.

More than 500 churches situated in the areas under Turkish occupation since 1974 have been destroyed, plundered and looted or turned into stables, warehouses, restaurants and hotels.