Mr Sulieman Al-Khateeb, Deputy Minister of Education, and Ambassador Ghassan Nseir, Permanent Delegate of Syria to UNESCO, accompanied the Director-General throughout his visit.
The Director-General had bilateral meetings with Mr Bachar Al Assad, President of the Republic; Mrs Asma Al Assad, the First Lady; Mr Ali Saad, Minister of Education and President of the Syrian National Commission for UNESCO; Mr Ghiath Barakat, Minister of Higher Education; Mr Rijad Nassan Agha, Minister of Culture; and Mr Mohsen Bilal, Minister of Information. Mr Matsuura also met with the United Nations Country Team in Syria.
During these meetings, all parties expressed their appreciation at the cooperation between Syria and UNESCO, in which UNESCO’s Beirut-based Regional Bureau for Education in the Arab countries plays an important role. The main focus of the discussions was on how to strengthen UNESCO-Syrian cooperation further, in particular in the field of education and culture.
The Syrian government expressed their wish to establish a training and rehabilitation centre in the field of early childhood development. To this end, the Director-General and the Minister of Education signed a letter of intent, which outlines UNESCO’s assistance in the preparatory works launched in order for the centre to become a regional category 2 centre under UNESCO’s auspices.
Among other education-related projects discussed were the establishment of a UNESCO Chair on information technologies and knowledge, scholarships for the Syrian students living in the occupied Syrian Golan and the support for the education of Iraqi refugees in Syria, for which the Director-General pledged to mobilize extra-budgetary resources.
Mr Matsuura highlighted the rich cultural heritage of the Syrian Arab Republic. During his stay, the Director-General visited two of the five Syrian sites inscribed on the World Heritage List – the old city of Damascus and Palmyra. He particularly congratulated the Syrian authorities on the nomination of Damascus as Arab Capital of Culture 2008.
The Director-General also paid a visit to Maalula, one of the three remaining villages in Syria, where people still speak Aramaic. Mr Matsuura paid tribute to the importance President Al Assad attached to the preservation of this intangible cultural heritage. He explained that the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, of which Syria is a member, was developing directives, which, when adopted, would enable the 2003 Convention to become fully operational. Mr Matsuura encouraged the authorities to submit candidatures for inclusion in the two intangible heritage lists – the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.
Author(s): Office of the Spokeswoman - Source: Flash Info N° 002-2008 - Publication Date: 14-01-2008