May 25, 2016 / 4:16 PM / a year ago

France helps Syrian archaeologists fill in the cracks

A general view shows the Crusader castle of Crac des Chevaliers, in Homs province, Syria May 24, 2016.Omar Sanadiki

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Young Syrians tasked with restoring their country's world famous archaeological heritage, ravaged by five years of war, are getting a helping hand from French experts.

Syria's antiquities chief, Maamoun Abdulkarim, has already moved thousands of artifacts from the ancient city of Palmyra - some of whose temples were dynamited last year by jihadist group Islamic State - and other historic sites into safekeeping.

He has now invited the experts to spend a year training Syrian architects and archaeologists in restoration techniques.

The French team visited the 900-year-old Krak des Chevaliers castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site, on Tuesday to discuss the damage and deliver advice.

The castle, which sits on a hill overlooking Lebanon, was overrun by rebels for three months in 2014 and damaged by mortar fire. 

Jacques Seigne (R), Emeritus Research Director at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, walks with a Syrian restoration professional at the Crusader castle of Crac des Chevaliers, in Homs province, Syria May 24, 2016.Omar Sanadiki

Fighting has also left much of the old cities of Homs and Aleppo in ruins.

"Sadly there is really a lot of work to do," said Jacques Seigne, Emeritus Research Director at France's National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS).

Slideshow (10 Images)

"Restoration work requires techniques and financing, of course, but one of the greatest aspects of restoration work is the human element...People have to be trained to know what they are doing and why they are doing it," Seigne said.

Seigne is working with Sawa Consulting, which works on cultural projects in conflict zones, to deliver the training across accessible parts of Syria.

Sawa Cosulting's Nicolas Edmet said the company is also discussing how to begin restoration projects across Syria with antiquities chief Abdulkarim, including in Palmyra, which United Nations cultural organization UNESCO has called one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world.

Islamic State was driven out of the city by Syrian government and allied forces in March.

Reporting by Lisa Barrington; editing by John Stonestreet

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