[Amman, March 1, 2022]
Under the patronage of His Excellency the Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Nayef Hameidi Al-Fayez, nine trafficked cultural antiquities returned to Jordan from the United States, after an official handover ceremony at the General Department of Antiquities. The ceremony to return the artifacts that were illegally smuggled from Jordan and obtained by an antiquities collector in the United States was represented on the American side by the United States Ambassador to Jordan Henry T. Wooster, Assistant Attorney General for New York Matthew Bogdanos, and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York Acting Deputy Special Agent in Charge Michael Alfonso. Jordan was represented by the Director General of the General Department of Antiquities, Dr. Fadi Al-Balawi, and HE Mr. Issam Al-Bdour, Director of the North American Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriate Affairs. The attendees celebrated the return as an important milestone in legal and diplomatic cooperation between the United States and Jordan to preserve Jordan’s rich cultural heritage, following the signing of a bilateral cultural property protection agreement signed by the United States and Jordan on December 16, 2019.
The antiquities initially were recovered from the New York based collector by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations New York Field Office and the New York District Attorney’s Office with robust cooperation by Jordan’s Department of Antiquities. Among the returned antiquities are neolithic stone animal figurines, a chalcolithic stone altar, tombstones, a human figurine, and a bronze pitcher.
“This is a testament to the United States’ commitment to help protect Jordan’s cultural heritage. With today’s repatriation of Jordanian antiquities, we are keeping this promise,” Ambassador Wooster affirmed, adding that “we are seeing justice done today, and the Embassy is equally committed to preventing this problem.”
H.E. Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Nayef Hamidi Al-Fayez valued the depth of joint relations with the American side in combating smuggling of cultural property and the role of the Jordanian government through its cooperation with partners and friends from countries around the world in addressing the phenomenon of combating smuggling. The Minister emphasized Jordan’s role in confronting and combating the smuggling of cultural property, in partnership and cooperation with all parties and international partners. He stressed the role of local institutions in preserving the cultural heritage as a result of international cooperation in this field, which resulted in the recovery of nine antiquities to Jordan. He also stressed that the human cultural heritage is the heritage of all humanity and is not restricted to one group without another. He valued the American role in preserving the human cultural heritage
The Director General of the Department of Antiquities, Prof. Fadi Balwai, stressed Jordan’s keenness, represented by the Department of Antiquities, to preserve the cultural heritage in Jordan by following up on antiquities inside and outside Jordan, and focusing on combating the phenomenon of illegal antiquities trafficking. Dr. Balawi praised the cooperation with the American side through the agreement signed between the two sides in combating the phenomenon of illegal trafficking in antiquities and following up on joint work in this field and all related fields
The ceremony commemorates the first return of artifacts under the 2019 bilateral cultural property protection agreement signed by the United States and Jordan on December 16, 2019, which took effect in February 2020. The transfer of these antiquities was coordinated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, the New York District Attorney’s Office, the Embassy in Jordan, and the Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Tourism, Department of Antiquities, and Embassy in the United States. Royal Jordanian Airlines and the Jordan Civil Aviation Regulatory Commission (CARC) provided major support for this transfer through facilitating flight arrangements and
transporting the antiquities and members of the New York delegation free of charge.
Antiquities form a cornerstone of Jordanian tourism, economy, and culture. The U.S. Embassy in Jordan supports the preservation and restoration of Jordanian antiquities and historic sites through numerous initiatives, most prominently the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation, which has provided more the $3M in funding to 20 restoration projects across Jordan in the last 21 years. Also, USAID-Jordan implements the “Sustainable Cultural Heritage through Engagement of Local Communities Project,” which generates employment opportunities for local communities and promotes tourism and cultural exchange.