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UN, international community must ensure protection of Buddhist heritage of Afghanistan: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. File   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has urged the United Nations and the international community to ensure the protection of the Buddhist heritage of Afghanistan under the Taliban, who had destroyed the ancient sandstone statues of Buddha at Bamiyan in 2001.

“If in keeping with the theme of our General Debate today, we are to truly build resilience through hope, we must all strive towards the common good. It is the role of the United Nations to facilitate this by treating all sovereign states, irrespective of size or strength, equitably, and with due respect for their institutions and their heritage,” Mr. Rajapaksa said in his address to the high-level UN General Debate on Wednesday.

“I request the United Nations and the international community to ensure the protection of the Buddhist heritage of Afghanistan,” he said adding that he calls on member states of the General Assembly to work together in a spirit of true cooperation, generosity, goodwill, and mutual respect to foster a better and more sustainable future for all humanity.

The Taliban had destroyed the ancient sandstone statues of Buddha at Bamiyan in 2001. Taliban government leader Mullah Mohammed Omar had ordered tanks and artillery to bombard and dynamite the huge statues carved in enormous mountain niches, beginning on March 2, 2001.

As the militant outfit took control of Kabul last month, and 20 years after the deliberate destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, a World Heritage site, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay called for the “preservation of Afghanistan’s cultural heritage in its diversity, in full respect of international law, and for taking all necessary precautions to spare and protect cultural heritage from damage and looting”.

UNESCO had said it is closely following the situation on the ground and is committed to exercising all possible efforts to safeguard the invaluable cultural heritage of Afghanistan.


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