Israel calls off UNESCO mission to Jerusalem: official
JERUSALEM - Agence France-Presse
Palestinian woman holds a Koran during a protest calling for the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails after Friday prayers in Jerusalem's Old City April 19, 2013. Israel announced on Monday it was calling off a United Nations investigative mission to the Old City in annexed east Jerusalem because of Palestinian efforts to politicize the visit. REUTERS/Ammar AwadIsrael announced on Monday it was calling off a United Nations investigative mission to the Old City in annexed east Jerusalem because of Palestinian efforts to politicize the visit.
"Israel has cancelled the delegation," which was due to have arrived the same day, a foreign ministry official told AFP "The Palestinians were not respecting the understandings. The visit was supposed to be professional, (but) they were taking measures that showed they were politicizing the event and not letting the delegation focus on professional sides of it," the official said.
Israel in April agreed that the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation could assess the state of the Old City of Jerusalem, the first such monitoring mission since 2004, following pressure from Jordan and the Palestinians, who became members of the organisation in 2011.
But ahead of the start of the delegation's work, the Palestinians were trying to "politicize" it, Israel said, contrary to understandings reached by the sides, and to change the action plan UNESCO decided upon in 2010.
"Palestinian foreign minister Riad Malki recently said they considered the mission a 'commission of inquiry,'" the official said, "and said they would discuss political issues with the mission." "The Palestinians are also pushing for the delegation to visit the Temple Mount," which is revered as Judaism's most sacred place, said the official, using the Israeli term for the complex known to Muslims as Al-Haram Al-Sharif that houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Cultural and religious heritage is a highly politicized issue for Israel and the Palestinians.
In March, the Palestinian Authority confirmed a verbal agreement dating back to 1924 giving Jordan custodianship over Muslim and Christian sites in Jerusalem, whose eastern sector Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East war.