France to offer 'asylum' for ISIS-threatened artworks: Hollande

French President Francois Hollande delivers his Unesco speech.
French President Francois Hollande delivers his Unesco speech.AFP

PARIS (AFP) - President Francois Hollande announced on Tuesday that France planned to implement a "right to asylum" for artworks at risk from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group which has destroyed heritage sites in Syria and Iraq.

Addressing the UN's cultural body four days after 129 people were killed in militant attacks on Paris, Hollande said "the right to asylum applies to people... but asylum also applies to works, world heritage", indicating it would be part of a law to be considered by parliament.

He said that Islamic State extremists were "at this very moment" issuing archaeological permits and slapping taxes on the items that would then feed the global black market, "transiting through free ports which are havens for receiving stolen goods and laundering, including in Europe".

France will also introduce customs checks on the importation of cultural goods and incorporate UN Security Council resolutions into its legislation banning the transport, transit and trade of cultural heritage having illegally left certain countries, Hollande told the Unesco conference in Paris.

ISIS seized control of Syria's ancient city of Palmyra in May and has realised international fears by destroying some of the most prized sites in the Unesco World Heritage listed ancient city.

The militants have carried out a sustained campaign of destruction against heritage sites in areas under their control in Syria and Iraq, including the important Iraqi sites of Hatra, Nimrud and Khorsabad, an ancient Assyrian capital.

Islamist militants are also accused of being behind attacks on 10 religious and historic monuments in the Unesco World Heritage city of Timbuktu in Mali.