Slovenia wants Italy to return old artworks

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Slovenia said on Friday it would formally ask Italy to return 94 artworks seized before World War II from churches, monasteries and museums in a Slovenian region then ruled by Italy.

"The Slovenian government has decided that it will send to the Italian side a request for the return of all artworks that were taken from the (Slovenian part of) Istria," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

"The artworks taken from Istria are very valuable as they include some top pieces by masters like Vittore Carpaccio," art historian Salvator Zitko, who is in charge of restitution of the artworks at a regional museum in Istria, told Reuters.

The artworks, mostly paintings, were made between the 14th and 18th century.

They were taken from the Istrian cities of Koper, Piran and Izola, most of them in 1940. The Italian authorities said they wanted to protect them from the war.

After the war, the region became a part of Yugoslavia, which tried for decades to negotiate with Italy the artworks' return. Slovenia declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 and joined the European Union in 2004.

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