The war in Syria has lasted for six years and has led to massive destruction and loss of life. Stymieing international peace efforts from the outset, there is increasing doubt that the conflict will reach a resolution or political settlement in the near future. This frustration has triggered an appetite among States, civil society and the international community for finite and concrete measures that can contribute to greater protection and compliance with international law. A recent constellation of events around the protection of cultural property appears to herald a shift in the response of the international community toward prescribing practical and actionable measures for third-party States. Drawing on the responsibility of third States “to respect and ensure respect for” international humanitarian law, this article examines the legal framework protecting cultural property and recent innovative protection responses that contribute to ensuring compliance with international law in Syria, short of military assistance and intervention.
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