Sunday, August 24, 2008

No response from Israel on Jerusalem site - official

Mohammad Ghazal
The Jordan Times

AMMAN - In response to media reports that Israel rejected Jordan's protest against its plans on Jerusalem’s Bab Al Magharbeh, a Foreign Ministry source said Saturday the government has not officially received any reply from Israel in this regard. Some Arabic press reported that Israel rejected Jordan’s stand on the issue regarding the old gate of the city, the source said, stressing that there has been nothing official and the government did not receive anything from Israel in this regard.

Last week, Minister of Foreign Affairs Salah Bashir met with the Israeli ambassador in Amman and clarified Jordan's position on Bab Al Magharbeh, the source explained Saturday.

He added that the minister clarified Jordan's position and highlighted the negative consequences in case of any unilateral measures by Israel.

Last Thursday, Raef Nejem, vice president of Restoration Committee of Al Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, said Israel has a plan to build a steel bridge at the gate, which he said would destroy the Islamic antiquities in the area.

The source, who asked for anonymity, stressed there is no dialogue on the issue outside the UNESCO's World Heritage Committee as Jerusalem and its walls are registered on the endangered World Heritage List.

In a recent meeting in Quebec, Canada, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported Friday, the committee issued a decision stressing the need to preserve the identity and the originality of Tal Al Magharbeh location and urged Israel to limit its construction work in the location to "strengthening" work.

The committee's decision also urged Israel to allow employees of the Jordanian Awqaf Department to continue collecting information to end the proposed Jordanian design in this regard, according to Petra.

Nejem said in an interview with The Jordan Times that Jordan has an alternative design to restore the road at Tal Al Magharbeh through a non-asphalted road.

According to Nejem, the Jordanian project was welcomed by UNESCO as it preserves the history of the site and does not affect the mosque but the Israeli proposal was not welcomed.

A Foreign Ministry official told Petra Friday that Israel's claims that UNESCO’s panel allows Jerusalem Municipality to take unilateral measures and prepare a design to build a "bridge" in Bab Al Magharbeh are not accurate and legally baseless.

The committee's decision seek to safeguard Jerusalem and the awqaf as an endangered humanitarian, Islamic heritage, the official told the news agency.

The source explained that UNESCO’s decisions have nothing to do with the legal status of Jerusalem or the Security Council's resolutions in this regard.

In addition, he said, UNESCO's latest decision commits Israel to halt its measures in Bab Al Magharbeh and obliges it not to take any unilateral measures such as the regulatory decisions by the Jerusalem Municipality that affect the legal status of east Jerusalem as it is an occupied city.

The ministry source told Petra: “Jordan will continue to exert diplomatic efforts to urge Israel to stop its practices with regard to east Jerusalem in general and Bab Al Magharbeh in particular” and respect the international law, the Fourth Geneva Convention, La Hague agreement for the year 1954 that protects cultural sites in case of armed conflict, international legitimacy resolutions, UNESCO's instructions and relevant articles of the peace treaty signed between Jordan and Israel in 1994.

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