Egypt's foreign minister Sameh Shoukry signed on Wednesday a cultural property agreement to prevent the illicit import, export and ownership transfer of antiquities between the US and Egypt, with counterpart US Secretary of State John Kerry, in Washington.
"This agreement is the first one in the Middle East or North Africa regarding the protection of antiquities," Kerry said, in brief comments following the signing.
Kerry added that antiquities protected by the agreement are priceless treasures that do not belong to traffickers, and "should not be sold illegally and bought by wealthy people to hide away somewhere."
The Egyptian foreign minister said the agreement was important for Egyptians and humanity in general.
"This is a common heritage that we share and it is important to protect and maintain people’s understanding of the commonality that binds us together," Shoukry said.
Egypt and the United States are among 115 signatories to a 1970 UNESCO convention on the means of prohibiting and preventing the illicit import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural property.
The convention on cultural property implementation act— the US law that allows it to implement the UNESCO convention — enables the US department of State to consider a request from any country party to the 1970 UNESCO convention to impose import restrictions on cultural materials.
The United States has bilateral cultural property agreements with 15 countries in addition to Egypt.
Minister Shoukry is currently on a visit to Washington, where he will meet a number of US officials in the Obama administration as well president-elect Donald Trump's transition team, and a number of congressmen and senators.
The minister will hold interviews with several US news outlets.