Israel Nixes UNESCO Visit, Blames PA Politicking

YERUSHALAYIM -

Israel on Monday canceled a visit by a delegation from UNESCO, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, to inspect preservation work in Yerushalayim’s Old City, blaming the Palestinians for “politicizing” it, The Jerusalem Post reported.

“The Palestinians violated all the agreements we had with UNESCO: that this was to be a purely professional, not a political visit,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.  The official said the Palestinian Authority sought to insinuate a “slew” of political elements into the visit, with PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki touting it as a fact-finding commission to investigate Israeli policy in the capital.

The PA was insisting on taking the delegation to such politically sensitive locations as Har Habayis, and meeting with Palestinian political personalities, not just “engineers, architects and professional people,” as had originally been agreed to.

“We have said this was unacceptable” the spokesman said. “Hopefully the delegation is postponed, and not cancelled.”

It was not immediately clear whether some of the delegation participants had already arrived in the country.

The agreement in April that paved way for the delegation’s inspection tour was made in exchange for a Palestinian commitment to postpone five anti-Israel resolutions pending before UNESCO. According to Israel, the delegation was not to go to the Har Habayis or deal with the issue of the Mughrabi Bridge, leading to there from the Kosel Plaza.

According to a UNESCO statement, the mission’s goals were to “examine the state of conservation of the Old City and its walls, a World Heritage site.”

The Foreign Ministry was to host the delegation, a ministry official said, since Israel is “the responsible party for maintaining and preserving” the site.