Paris: Unesco chief Irina Bokova Thursday called for creation of protected cultural zones around heritage sites in conflict-hit Syria and Iraq.
"A start could be made with the city of Aleppo, and especially the Omeyyad mosque, a highly iconic site located in the world heritage Syrian city," Bokova said in a statement.
Bokova also denounced the persecution of minorities, the attacks on cultural heritage and the illicit trafficking in cultural properties as "part of a strategy of deliberate cultural cleansing of exceptional violence".
"There can be no purely military solution to this crisis. To fight fanaticism, we also need to reinforce education, a defence against hatred, and protect heritage, which helps forge collective identity," she said at an international conference on threats to cultural heritage and diversity in Syria and Iraq.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon strongly endorsed Bokova`s "cultural call".
In his message to the conference, Ban said: "The protection of cultural heritage is a security imperative."