US ambassador condemns Unesco decision to grant protection for Church of the Nativity on site seen as Jesus's birthplace
Israeli officials have questioned the need for Bethlehem to be registered as an endangered site and see Palestinian moves at Unesco and other UN bodies as an effort to embarrass Israel on the world stage....
The fourth-century Church of the Nativity, built over a grotto where Christian tradition says Jesus was born, needs repairs but the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, is short of funds.
The Palestinian Authority's request included part of the Pilgrimage Route, the path which tradition says Joseph and Mary took into the city in their trek from Nazareth 2,000 years ago.
Palestinians had pointed to what they describe as the dangers of Israeli occupation and cited in particular Israel's 2002 siege of the Church of the Nativity, where militants took sanctuary during a Palestinian uprising. Violence has subsided in recent years and more than two million people now visit the church annually......
.....Friday's meeting in St Petersburg was attended by the Palestinian foreign minister. The Palestinian Authority has viewed its entry into Unesco as a strategic milestone before the broader international recognition it seeks for a future state.
"This gives hope and confidence to our people on the inevitable victory of our just cause," said the prime minister, Salam Fayyad, in a statement following the decision.
"It increases their determination to continue efforts at deepening readiness for the establishment of an independent state of Palestine, with its capital in East Jerusalem within the 1967 borders," Fayyad said.
"This is an irresponsible decision," said Gideon Koren, Israel's vice-president of the International Council on Monuments and Sites. The US ambassador to Unesco, David Killion, said he was "profoundly disappointed by the decision..."......
Palestinians Welcome Including Bethlehem on World Heritage List
RAMALLAH, June 30, 2012 (WAFA) - Presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh Friday welcomed a decision by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee to include the West Bank city of Bethlehem and its holy sites on the World Heritage List.
The World Heritage Committee voted on Friday in favor of including Bethlehem on the World Heritage List with 13 members voting in favor, six against and two abstained.
“This is a historic day for justice,” said Abu Rudeineh. “The world has once again stood against occupation and for right, justice and international law,” He added.
Abu Rudeineh said the vote was a “recognition of the rights of our people and their independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
He thanked the world for voting in favor of the Palestinians, saying, “This decision is one step on a long road toward world recognition of a Palestinian state.”
Prime Minister Salam Fayyad had also welcomed the decision, calling it “a victory for rights and justice.”
“This decision reflects the importance to the world of this holy Palestinian city and its holy places and heritage,” he said in a statement issued after the vote.
“It gives hope and confidence to our people of the imminent victory of their just cause,” he added.
It is time for the international community and its institutions to show legal, moral, cultural and political responsibility and put a stop to the Israeli practices that threaten the cultural heritage and civilization of the Palestinian people, said Fayyad.
PLO Executive Committee member and lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi also welcomed UNCESO’s decision.
“The Palestinian people are celebrating this decision as a moment of national pride and affirmation of their rich and unique heritage and identity,” she said in a statement.
“It is a welcome recognition by the international community of our historical and cultural rights in this land and our commitment to the protection and preservation of such significant Palestinian cultural and religious sites in spite of the Israeli occupation and all its prejudicial measures,” she said.
“Today’s decision emphasizes that Israel must be bound by international law and treaties, particularly pertaining to its illegal and detrimental measures as a belligerent occupant and as a major threat to the safety and the responsible preservation of that important segment of human civilization in Palestine,” said Ashrawi.
“We pledge to work within the Kiev Convention with the relevant churches to protect and preserve this site, and we also will proceed to inscribe the rest of the world heritage sites that have been entrusted to the people of Palestine throughout the centuries,” she concluded.