Statement by H.E. Sameh Shoukry, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt at the First Ministerial Conference on Ancient Civilizations Forum

Athens, 24 April 2017

H.E. Mr. Nikolas Kotzias, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Republic,

H.E. Mr. Wang Yi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China,

Excellencies Ministers, Senior Officials and Ambassadors

Ladies and gentlemen

At the outset, I can not miss conveying my profound gratitude to our friends the government and people of Greece for the excellent organization and the warm hospitality.

Allow me, my two friends, the ministers of foreign affairs of Greece and China, to commend your plausible choice of this critical moment, in which our world is witnessing a deep crisis of civilizational disturbance, to convene ministers from a selected few of countries belonging to the most ancient civilizations to which history is most appreciative and grateful, so as we declare together the birth of the Ancient Civilizations Forum, from Athens, this city that has always inspired philosophy and wisdom, and which innovated democracy in theory and practice.

Excellencies dear Ministers,

I am pleased to express the enthusiasm with which Egypt participates in this new cultural framework which will surely address the challenges of the current critical moment in the history of humanity. As the peoples of the civilizations that made history; who will be more touched and resentful to what is being committed by the stampedes of extremism and terrorism as a result of the current appalling civilization collapse? And the disgrace to the values of civilization and human dignity? And to the barbaric assault on freedoms and the rights of peoples in living a safe and stable life? And to violations to the basic principles of justice? Not to mention the heinous violations to the sanctity of the common cultural heritage of mankind with all its immortal innovations, universal values and irreplaceable accumulation of knowledge. What can our ancestors’ civilizations say with regard to the bloody sectarian violence, the horrendous wars and foreign occupations that are engulfing the most sacred strongholds of human history?

Ladies and gentlemen

It seems that the modern age, or to be more precise the post-modern age due to the impressive information revolution of the 21st century, and which is witnessing regretful political, economic, cultural and religious clashes, is in dire need for rooting back to the ancient civilizations, and their authenticity, to retrieve the wisdom of history and the lessons of the past with a view to looking for a more civilized and humane future.

This is the meaningful message that our new forum should convey to the entire humanity, and particularly to the new generations. As when it gathers under one roof the descendants of the most ancient civilizations with its most refined human inheritance, it also casts a spotlight on the stark contrast between the greatness of these civilizations and the marvelous blend that they achieved across times and places, and today’s reality, where in several places around the world, human values are perishing and civilization outposts are collapsing.

We, as the representatives of these selected ancient civilizations, have to commit to the essence of the wisdom of history, and to work actively towards informing the world about the importance of the message of civilization, peace and enlightenment that this forum is presenting to humanity, while affirming the role of the forum in highlighting the extended and seamless connections between civilizations across generations and the preservation and protection of their human heritage by all means and ways, primarily the valuable cultural heritage which happens to be at areas of armed conflict.

Ladies and gentlemen

Civilization carries a self-illuminating and inspiring gloss, as it represents the summation of human success in optimally investing the security and stability surrounding human beings to positively engage with others in their society and the surrounding environment, and thus unleashing a creative human potential to construct, innovate and develop. Albeit the diversity in the outlooks of the different civilizations, they all melted in one universal human civilization which aspired to ameliorate the lives of mankind.

Isn’t it possible to observe that in the writings on the Egyptian and Greek papyrus? Isn’t that what we received from the Egyptian pyramids and the Mexican pyramids of the great Aztec and Maya civilizations as well as the Sun temples of the Incas? Aren’t the temples of Karnak and Acropolis, the Coliseum, the Great Wall of China, the gardens of Babel, Taj Mahal and many others, honest witnesses? All these paramount symbols of civilization, if it departed its silence, it will speak only the language of one human civilization.


There is no doubt that the paradox of terrorism and extremism with all their drastic political, economic, cultural and social repercussions will have to be at the top of the priorities of our new forum. Egypt has dedicated itself to confront these forces of darkness with full determination. At the time Egypt is battling the Takfiri outlaws, it is firmly convinced that the security confrontation against terrorism has to be accompanied with an intellectual, cultural and civilizational approach. We remind ourselves with the preamble of the constitution of the UNESCO: “That since the wars begin in the minds of men, it is the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.”

Emanating from this vision, in my country there is currently a full-fledged action by Al Azhar, being the lantern of moderation in the Muslim world for more than a millennium, to reform the religious discourse and cleanse it from the falsifications that were forcibly glued to Islam. At the backdrop of the Palm Sunday tragedy in Alexandria and Tanta, a High Council for countering terrorism and extremism was formed from the communities of thought, sciences, culture, art and Muslim and Christian religious figures to collaborate, coordinate and mobilize effort, and to elaborate effective policies to uproot the ideologies of terrorism, while cementing the basis of citizenship, tolerance, plurality, co-existence and other values of civilization that bind us and liberate the minds of young people from poisonous ideas, alienation and identity crises on which extremist Islamicists, the leaderships of far right in the west and the other forces of the ominous alliance of anti-civilization and progress, nourish and thrive.

Distinguished audience,

I would like to remind that Egypt is the descendant of a blend of immortal civilizations, which crossed paths in unique historical moments. The Pharonic civilization, which was the first to preach monotheism and pursuit for truth, as well as the Islamic civilization with its surge of knowledge and enlightenment, was guided by the first verse of the holy Quran being “Read”. In Egypt, the divine message descended on Moses-peace be upon him, Jesus-peace be upon him- lived and went out in his journey with the holy family, and civilizations merged, overlapped and co-existed with other beacons of progress in the Middle East, Africa and the Mediterranean; making Egypt a cultural melting point which is immune to isolation or exclusion.

Excellencies and distinguished audience,
I am convinced that there are plenty of opportunities for cooperation and joint endeavors among the members of the Ancient Civilizations Forum that can translate its message to a tangible reality. Few examples can be:

- Cooperation in elaborating an international discourse that retrieves our common civilization heritage to confront terrorism, violence and extremism including through the collaboration of our cultural diplomacies to promote the rights of peoples to development, peace and human dignity.
- Discussing the ways to connect the accomplishments of our ancient civilizations with the achievement of the 2030 sustainable development agenda, being the international consensus to allow our contemporary world to rise up of its several difficulties.
- Highlighting the important role of migration and human mobility, which never ceased to transmit art, literature, languages, sciences and other manifestations of cultural production across history. Globalization is not the imposition of standard modules, but an opportunity to unleash the powers of plurality and diversity to interact while being inspired with the history of coexistence of our ancient civilizations that had significant and important mutual exchanges.
- Coordination to enhance protection for cultural property against illegal smuggling and trafficking, and stimulating further international cooperation to ensure their safe return to their countries of origin including through the relevant intellectual property rights frameworks as well as technical cooperation and exchange of expertise in the area of preservation and maintenance of cultural heritage sites and property.
- Cooperation and exchanging best practices in developing tourism economy which bases itself on the rich cultural heritage of our countries, and the possible ways to maximize its contribution to the efforts of economic and social development.
- It is also oppurtune for fora that allow people-to-people communication, and provide space for dialogue among young people, scientists, artists, media and other stakeholders that have the capacity to maximize the benefit from our common denominators.

To conclude, the Ancient Civilizations Forum, this nascent arrangement whose uniqueness is due to the connection it provides between the depth of history and the variables of the current reality, can add an important tool to cultural diplomacy and a new perspective to addressing emerging issues through innovative tools that can effectively engage with contemporary challenges.

I reiterate Egypt’s full support to this forum, and its intention to actively participate in elaborating the joint activities it shall organize. We look forward under the able guidance of the Greek- Chinese leadership to develop an ambitious action plan that can operationalize this initiative and lead it towards wider horizons of contribution to the welfare and common good of the human family.

I thank you.