Europe

G7 culture ministers discuss threat of cultural trafficking

  • Canada's Culture Minister Melanie Joly, left, Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini, center, and French Culture Minister Audrey Azoulay, meet the media during a first-ever G7 Culture ministers meeting in Florence, Italy, March 30, 2017.  (Maurizio Degl' Innocenti/ANSA via AP)

    Canada's Culture Minister Melanie Joly, left, Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini, center, and French Culture Minister Audrey Azoulay, meet the media during a first-ever G7 Culture ministers meeting in Florence, Italy, March 30, 2017. (Maurizio Degl' Innocenti/ANSA via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • US Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Bruce Wharton, right, is welcomed by Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini as she arrives for a first-ever G7 Culture ministers meeting in Florence, Italy, Thursday, March 30, 2017.  (Maurizio Degl' Innocenti/ANSA via AP)

    US Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Bruce Wharton, right, is welcomed by Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini as she arrives for a first-ever G7 Culture ministers meeting in Florence, Italy, Thursday, March 30, 2017. (Maurizio Degl' Innocenti/ANSA via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • Culture Minister of France, Audrey Azoulay, right, is welcomed by Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini as she arrives for a first-ever G7 Culture ministers meeting in Florence, Italy, March 30, 2017.  (Maurizio Degl' Innocenti/ANSA via AP)

    Culture Minister of France, Audrey Azoulay, right, is welcomed by Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini as she arrives for a first-ever G7 Culture ministers meeting in Florence, Italy, March 30, 2017. (Maurizio Degl' Innocenti/ANSA via AP)  (The Associated Press)

During their first formal meeting ever, Group of Seven industrialized nations culture ministers have discussed the looting and trafficking of cultural treasures by extremist organizations.

The topic was on the table both during technical sessions by experts and law enforcement and during the afternoon meeting of G-7 cultural ministers and top officials on Thursday.

U.S. Ambassador Bruce Wharton, acting undersecretary for public diplomacy, told reporters that the ministers discussed the grave risk posed by "looting and trafficking at the hands of terrorist organizations and criminal networks."

He cited the pillaging of heritage sites in Timbuktu in Mali, Palmyra in Syria and the Mosul museum in Iraq, which experts are just beginning to assess after 2 ½ years in the hands of Islamic State group extremists.