The UK promised to return more than 5,000 ancient artefacts to Iraq. The announcement was made by the UK government during the visit of Iraq's Prime Minister to London this week. The return of antiquities is the largest ever by the UK. Many of the items were stolen and smuggled out of Iraq over the past century. A lot of this happened after the Iraqi wars earlier this century. There is a profitable trade in stolen artefacts. Iraq's ambassador in London thanked the UK for its help. He said: "We extend our gratitude...for their efforts and cooperation with us."
Many of the artefacts were discovered by British archaeologists a century ago. One valuable item is a rare Sumerian plaque from around 2400BC. It was smuggled out of Iraq and put up for auction in 2019. It was seized by police in London. The plaque will be put on public display at the museum before its return. The British Museum said it would continue to work to research these important collections, and to "fight against the illicit trade in antiquities". It added: "It is vital that we preserve and protect the world's cultural heritage for future generations to appreciate and enjoy."