BRUSSELS, December 5. /TASS/. Hopefully, Moscow and Washington will conclude an intergovernmental agreement, enabling the parties to resume an inter-museum exchange that was suspended in 2010 over the so-called Schneerson Library case, Special Presidential Envoy for International and Cultural Cooperation, Mikhail Shvydkoy, told a TASS correspondent following talks with EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Tibor Navracsics.

“Our group from Russia went to the US to hold talks, and our colleagues from the Department of State have some understanding that this agreement is necessary,” he stressed, pointing out that it will be hard to clinch such an agreement.

“To me, the obstacles (to concluding the agreement) are that such an agreement must be ratified. Given the current composition of the House of Representatives and the Senate, I think that it is going to be quite difficult, considering that any gesture towards Russia, and this will look like a gesture towards Russia, will be hard to accept,” the Presidential Envoy stated.

Shvydkoy added that plans are in store to raise the issue at an international conference of heads of major museums, set to be held in Dallas, Texas, on February 13.

The Presidential Envoy previously told Izvestiya newspaper that Russia insists that an intergovernmental agreement with the United States on the protection of cultural values that the country lends for exhibiting should be signed.

Dialogue with Washington on the issue hasn’t developed since 2014, Shvydkoy added, noting however that the visit of the Russian delegation to the US this November showed that “there is some understanding on the American side.”

Suspended exchange

The Schneerson Library, a collection of rare religious Hassidic books and documents, was started by spiritual leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hassidic movement, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson. It currently numbers 12,000 books and 50,000 rare documents.

In late July 2011, a US court ruled that Russia should hand over the books claimed by the US-based Hassidic group.

Moscow, however, dismissed the ruling and demanded that seven books from Schneerson’s collection that the Library of Congress obtained in 1994 via the inter-library exchange system be given back.

In 2013, the US court imposed a $50,000 daily fine on Russia for not complying with its earlier decisions to hand over the so-called Schneerson Library to US-based Chabad-Lubavitch movement.

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