Palestinians welcome UNESCO vote on Jerusalem

Dhaka,  Tue,  06 December 2016
Published : 16 Oct 2016, 14:43:24

Palestinians welcome UNESCO vote on al-Aqsa compound

Palestinian leaders have rejected Israeli criticism over a UNESCO draft resolution that condemned Israel's policies around al-Aqsa Mosque compound, while supposedly denying Jewish ties to the holy site in occupied East Jerusalem.

Israel suspended cooperation with UNESCO on Friday, a day after the UN cultural body criticised it for restricting Muslim access to the site, and for aggression by Israeli police and soldiers. UNESCO also recognised Israel as the occupying power.

In a statement, the Palestinian ministry of foreign affairs said it welcomed the adoption of the resolution that reflected "the majority of member states commitment to confront [the Israeli] impunity and uphold the principles upon which the UNESCO was founded".

The statement added: "Rather than spending millions to spin the illegal colonisation into normalcy and distort reality, Israel, the occupying power, must understand that the only way to be treated like a normal state, is if it starts acting like one, by ending its occupation of Palestine and seizing its irresponsible and illegal actions in the occupied land of the state of Palestine especially East Jerusalem."

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki also criticised Irina Bokova, UNESCO director-general, after she distanced herself from Thursday's vote.

"The heritage of Jerusalem is indivisible, and each of its communities has a right to the explicit recognition of their history and relationship with the city," she said in a statement.

Jerusalem's Old City was designated a World Heritage site because of its "universal value ... which is an appeal for dialogue, not confrontation", Bokova said.

In response, Maliki said Bokova had "outstepped the scope of her mandate" and described her declaration as "completely unacceptable".

Israel and the US denounced the UNESCO resolution, which was submitted by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, and Sudan - and passed with 24 votes in favour, six against, and 26 abstentions.

Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, the UK, and the US voted against the resolution, while China, Russia, Mexico, South Africa and Pakistan among others voted in favour.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said in a statement on Thursday that UNESCO has lost its legitimacy by adopting this resolution; according to a media report.

- TM
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