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Lebanon: Italy and UNESCO will restore the Sursock Museum

BEIRUT, MAY 17 – Italy has committed with UNESCO to the restoration of the Sursock Museum in Beirut with a financial pledge of one million Euro. While in Beirut, the Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Marina Sereni signed an agreement with the local office of the UN agency with the goal to repair the substantial damages caused by the devastating August 4 explosion in the port of the Lebanese capital that killed over 200 people, injuring more that 7,500 and leaving an estimated 300,000 people homeless.

Specializing in modern and contemporary art, the Sursock Museum is housed in a 1912 villa that combines Venetian and Ottoman architectural elements. The villa was entrusted in 1952 to the city of Beirut by Nicolas Sursock, an art collector and a prominent member of one of the old aristocratic Christian families of the city. The museum opened in 1961 with an exhibition of works of contemporary Lebanese artists, and soon became a center of Beirut’s cultural life. It reopened in 2015 after a costly restoration project.

The museum suffered severe damage in the explosion. The structure of the building was heavily affected, as well as numerous works of art, including the portrait of the patron who had given the museum to the city.

While in the Lebanese capital, Sereni made also a stop at the Mar Mikhael railway station, an historic building which served passenger trains on the Damascus line (opened in 1895) and the Naqoura-Beirut-Tripoli line until the mid Seventies. The abandoned station has been recently used for cultural events and fund-raisers, but the August explosion left it badly damaged. It will be revitalized as a gathering spot and place of cultural exchange, thanks to a multi-bilateral project with UN-Habitat under the supervision of the Directorate of Lebanese Antiquities.

In Beirut Sereni held high-level talks: she met with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, with whom she discussed the country’s political and economic crisis and the need for a government that addresses the most urgent issues and implements reforms. Sereni then discussed bilateral cooperation with Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbi. She concluded the visit meeting the Maronite Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, with whom she exchanged views on the political and socio-economic challenges affecting Lebanon and on the prospects for change in view of the 2022 elections. 

She also visited the “Zahle Wastewater Treatment Plant,” which was financed by the Italian government with a loan of approximately 22.3 million euros. The plant serves a population of over 200,000 inhabitants, with the goal of improving its sanitary conditions. Sereni assured that Italy is committed to providing for the operation of the Zahle plant for the next three years thanks to an agreement with the UNDP (United Nations Development Program). (@BrittanyBriantF)

Il giornale Italiano delle Nazioni Unite. Ha due redazioni, una a New York, l’altra a Roma.

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