Ambassador Nowotny Klimt Arbitration Welcomed by U.S. Side

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (05/24/05)

U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Burns congratulates Secretary General Kyrle

Washington - An agreement to end the long, drawn-out legal dispute conducted in the United States over six paintings by Gustav Klimt and to submit the dispute to arbitration in Austria is seen as very positive by Austria and the U.S. government, said the Austrian Ambassador to the U.S., Eva Nowotny. During the visit of the Secretary General of the Austrian Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Johannes Kyrle to Washington, D.C., U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Nicholas Burns, congratulated him on this decision.

"It is a positive development also from the standpoint of the U.S. government," assured Ambassador Nowotny. The lawsuit has not weakened relations with the United States because during proceedings before the U.S. Supreme Court in the dispute over jurisdiction, the U.S. took a stand on the side of Austria as "amicus curiae," reminded Ms. Nowotny. Now the "open-ended issue," to which the diplomats at the Austrian Embassy have dedicated a lot of their time, has come to a close. Both parties, the claimant Maria Altmann and the defendant, the Republic of Austria, have agreed to binding arbitration.

The deadlines have been clearly determined: The 3rd arbitrator must be appointed by May 31, and the proceedings must be concluded before the arbitration panel by August 31. The decision will be made by November 1, by the three arbitrators, Attorney Andreas Nödl, Professor Walter Rechberger and the third person yet to be appointed. The costs of arbitration will be covered by Austria, and the decision made according to Austrian law.

The six valuable paintings by Gustav Klimt originally belonged to Ferdinand Bloch of the Bloch-Bauer family. His niece, Maria Altmann, claimed their return from the Republic of Austria. In June of 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled for the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts. Maria Altmann, eighty-nine years of age, lives in California since having fled the Nazis. She also welcomes the agreement.