Turkey: Europa Nostra supports the Göbekli Tepe campaign led by the ONE Association

On 21 January 2015 at its Paris headquarters, UNESCO hosted a conference initiated by the recently established Turkish heritage association ONE (Ortak Nesiller Entegrasyonu). On this occasion, eminent personalities from the worlds of culture, business and politics, led by Demet Sabancı Çetindoğan, President of ONE, expressed their strong personal commitment to promoting the archaeological site of Göbekli Tepe in southeastern Anatolia in Turkey, with the aim of getting it inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Europa Nostra’s President and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Plácido Domingo, in a video message broadcast at the event, added the voice of Europa Nostra in support of the chorus of many voices that have already spoken out in support of the importance of Göbekli Tepe for the culture and history of the humankind.

In her opening remarks, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova praised the commitment of the ONE Association and its President Demet Sabancı Çetindoğan to protecting and promoting Turkey’s cultural heritage and in particular Göbekli Tepe. “Heritage is not about stones; heritage is about Values”, stated Irina Bokova, stressing that today, more than ever, the world must invest in culture and education as means of promoting peace and tolerance among human beings.

In her address, the President of ONE reaffirmed the engagement of the Association with this cause and urged UNESCO to put Göbekli Tepe on its World Heritage List.

In his speech, Turkish Ambassador to UNESCO, Hüseyin Avni Botsalı, called for the civil society organisations and the corporate sector to actively participate in the safeguard and enhancement of our shared cultural heritage and he urged public bodies working at national or international level to cooperate more closely with the private stakeholders.

The importance of the Göbekli Tepe Neolithic archaeological site, which can be considered as the place of “The Birth of Religion and Rise of Civilisation”, was further explained by Professor Dr. Haluk Dursun, Undersecretary at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey, and Professor Dr. Ilber Ortayli, eminent historian who is the former Director of Topkapi Palace Museum and is currently the Chairperson of the Advisory Board of ONE. Finally, the Association presented a special award honouring the memory and the legacy of the late Professor Dr. Klaus Schmit from Germany, who was the legendary team leader of the Göbekli Tepe excavation site. The award was presented to his widow, Çiğdem Köksal Schmidt.

Europa Nostra’s President and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Plácido Domingo, in a video message broadcast at the conference, expressed strong support to the campaign for the recognition of Göbekli Tepe as a World Heritage Site.

“I wish to add my personal voice of support to the voice of many other personalities who have spoken out in support of the importance of Göbekli Tepe for the world. Göbekli Tepe is a unique archaeological site which certainly fully deserves to be inscribed – sooner rather than later – on UNESCO World Heritage List,” also stated Plácido Domingo in his letter of support addressed to Demet Sabancı Çetindoğan, President of the ONE Association. “Göbekli Tepe, which was a meeting place between the peoples of the East and the West, represents a true beginning of civilisation. It celebrates our common humanity. It can help us to understand our shared past and our collective roots as human beings in a way that few other monuments and sites can. It shows us that the struggles and conflicts which divide us today are only ripples on the vast ocean of time,” Plácido Domingo observed in his letter.

Permanent representatives and diplomats from various member countries of UNESCO and high officials of UNESCO, including Alfredo Perez de Armiñan, the new Deputy-Director General for Culture, attended the conference. Europa Nostra was represented by a top-level delegation composed of its Executive President Denis de Kergorlay, its Board Member Piet Jaspaert, its Secretary General Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović and its Communication Advisor Wolter Braamhorst.

During the conference Q&A session, the Secretary General of Europa Nostra took the floor to welcome the creation of the ONE Association by prominent representatives of the Turkish corporate and cultural sectors. “We hope that this powerful example will encourage other companies, private foundations and individuals in Turkey and elsewhere in Europe and the rest of the world, to embrace the cause of cultural heritage,” she affirmed. Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović also welcomed UNESCO’s willingness to involve more closely civil society organisations and the private sector in the protection of World Heritage sites. “Europa Nostra with its wide pan-European network is looking forward to establishing a regular dialogue between the World Heritage Committee and representatives of civil society organisations at the next annual meeting of the WHC which will be held, under the Presidency of Germany, from 29 June to 8 July in Bonn,” she stated.

Conference on Göbekli Tepe at UNESCO headquarters in Paris
On 17 January 2015 in Istanbul, Plácido Domingo had the pleasure of meeting Demet Sabancı Çetindoğan at a dinner in honour of the President of Europa Nostra hosted by the President of ONE. This event was attended by members of the Board of ONE, representatives from Europa Nostra, namely Piet Jaspaert and Wolter Braamhorst, and from Europa Nostra’s country representation in Turkey, namely Professor Nuran Zeren Gülersoy, President, and Ilhan Nebioglu, long-standing Turkish member of Europa Nostra. On this occasion, the delegates explored ways in which Europa Nostra with EN Turkey and ONE could join forces in the future to strengthen the lobby for cultural heritage in Turkey and to promote a wider European and international awareness of the rich multicultural heritage in Turkey.

“Europa Nostra Turkey is looking forward to cooperating with the ONE Association to save and promote the invaluable cultural heritage of our country. We, among others, hope that ONE will help us to promote the need to save St. George Armenian Church in Mardin, listed among the 7 Most Endangered heritage sites in Europe. Let us all work together with Europa Nostra and the European Investment Bank Institute to rescue this gem of our shared cultural heritage and to give it a new life as a perfect setting for promoting intercultural dialogue and respect in the city of Mardin and its wider region,” stated Nuran Zeren Gülersoy on this occasion.

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