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The following Security Council press statement was issued on May 22nd, 2015 by Council President Raimonda Murmokaitė (Lithuania):

The members of the Security Council strongly condemned the ongoing barbaric terrorist acts by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in Syria, including its violent takeover of Palmyra.

The members of the Security Council expressed deep concern for the thousands of Palmyra residents inside the city, as well as for those displaced as a result of ISIL’s advance. The members of the Security Council call for the safe passage of civilians fleeing the violence, and reaffirm that the primary responsibility to protect its populations lies with the Syrian authorities. The members of the Security Council stated their grave concern for the protection of the World Heritage site of Palmyra and the systematic campaign of destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq and Syria.

The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms ISIL’s terrorist acts, which reportedly include beheadings and killings. They expressed concern for the women and children in Palmyra, noting ISIL’s pattern of abducting, exploiting, and abusing women and children elsewhere, including rape, sexual abuse, forced marriage, and forced child recruitment committed by ISIL.

The members of the Security Council reiterated their condemnation of the destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq and Syria, particularly by ISIL, including targeted destruction of religious sites and objects, and noted with concern that ISIL and other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with Al-Qaida are generating income from engaging directly or indirectly in the looting and smuggling of cultural heritage items from archaeological sites, museums, libraries, archives, and other sites in Syria and Iraq, which is being used to support their recruitment efforts and to strengthen their operational capability to organize and carry out terrorist attacks. The members of the Security Council underlined the need to bring perpetrators of these acts to justice.

The members of the Security Council stressed again that ISIL must be defeated and that the intolerance, violence, and hatred it espouses must be stamped out. The members of the Council further emphasized that such continued acts of barbarism perpetrated by ISIL do not intimidate them, but rather stiffen their resolve, and stressed that there has to be a common effort amongst Governments and institutions, including those in the region most affected, to counter ISIL, as the Council resolved in United Nations Security Council resolutions 2170 (2014) and 2199 (2015), and underscored the need for the full and immediate implementation of these resolutions by all Member States. They reminded States that they must ensure that measures taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, refugee, and humanitarian law.

The members of the Security Council voiced their strong support for UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] Director-General Bokova’s efforts to address the destruction and looting of cultural heritage, including through UNESCO’s efforts to assist in the implementation of relevant provisions of United Nations Security Council resolution 2199 (2015).