ROME – Italy is teaming with the United Nations' culture protection agency to keep ancient artworks, monuments, artifacts and archaeological sites in conflict areas out of the hands of extremists.
Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni and UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova signed an accord in Rome Tuesday creating an Italian task force of Peacekeepers of Culture as well as establishing a center in Turin to train cultural-heritage protection experts.
Officials say no country has been chosen yet for the first mission. The task force draws on Italy's Carabinieri paramilitary police force, which has long been in the vanguard in fighting trafficking in looted artworks and artifacts.
Gentiloni noted that extremists such as the Islamic State group sell looted art and artifacts to finance terrorism and destroy monuments as "cultural cleansing."