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AJE - UN grants Nativity Church 'endangered' status

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  • Paul
    AJE - Aljazeera 2/7/2012 UN grants Nativity Church endangered status UNESCO agrees to fund repairs for site of Jesus birthplace in Bethlehem, despite
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 2 12:41 AM
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      AJE - Aljazeera 2/7/2012

      UN grants Nativity Church 'endangered' status
      UNESCO agrees to fund repairs for site of Jesus' birthplace in
      Bethlehem, despite Israeli and US objections.
      Last Modified: 30 Jun 2012 02:35


      The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has
      granted endangered World Heritage status and funding for repairs to the
      site revered by Christians as Jesus's birthplace in the West Bank city
      of Bethlehem, despite objections from the United States and Israel.

      Thirteen of the 21 members of the World Heritage Committee voted in
      favour of the move at a meeting on Friday in St.
      Petersburg, Russia. Six members had voted against it and two abstained.

      The fourth century Church of the Nativity is built over a grotto where
      Christian tradition says Jesus was born, and is in need of repair.

      The Palestinian Authority (PA), which exercises limited self-rule in the
      Israel-occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank, has been short
      of funds to make the necessary fixes to the church.

      The PA's request covered part of the Pilgrimage Route, the path which
      tradition says Joseph and Mary took into the city in their trek from
      Nazareth about 2,000 years ago.

      Palestinians had pointed to what they described as the dangers of
      Israeli occupation and cited in particular Israel's
      2002 siege of the church, when Palestinian fighters took sanctuary
      during an uprising.

      Violence has fallen dramatically in recent years and more than two
      million people now visit the church every year.

      Independent experts sent by UNESCO to examine the church recommended
      turning down the request, saying that while the church roof needed
      patching up, the shrine could not be considered "to have been severely
      damaged or to be under imminent threat".

      Palestinian statehood

      Friday's meeting was attended by the Palestinian foreign minister, and
      the PA has viewed its entry into UNESCO as a strategic milestone ahead
      of the broader international recognition it seeks for future statehood.

      "This gives hope and confidence to our people in the inevitable victory
      of our just cause," said 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.

      Israel has questioned the need for Bethlehem to be registered as an
      endangered site and sees Palestinian moves at
      UNESCO and other UN bodies as efforts to embarrass Israel on the world

      "This is proof that UNESCO is motivated by political and not cultural
      considerations," Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's office
      said in a statement following the decision.

      "Instead of taking steps to promote peace, the Palestinians are acting
      unilaterally, which makes peace more distant."

      David Killion, the US ambassador to UNESCO, said he was "profoundly
      disappointed by the decision".

      The Palestinian government plans to register about 20 more sites with
      UNESCO, including the ancient city of Jericho and the archaeological
      site of Sebastia, and has dismissed Israel's accusations.

      "Our goal is to preserve and safeguard these sites in spite of the
      threat from Israeli occupation," Hanan Ashrawi, head of
      the Palestine Liberation Organisation's Department of Culture and
      Information, told Reuters.

      Last year, UNESCO granted the Palestinians full membership, a decision
      seen at the time as a boost to their bid, since
      largely stalled, to win United Nations recognition of its statehood.

      Israel and the United States, which later cut off its $80m annual
      funding of UNESCO, condemned the decision, saying
      peace negotiations, which collapsed in 2010, were the only viable path
      to a Palestinian state.
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