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PA summons Russia envoy over UNESCO vote

Oct. 18, 2012 5:16 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 26, 2012 10:33 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki has asked Moscow's ambassador to the PA to clarify why Russia called to postpone a vote on Palestinian heritage sites at the UN.

Russia on Wednesday proposed delaying voting on five decisions to implement resolutions protecting Palestinian heritage sites in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and reconstructing the Gaza Strip.

At an executive board meeting in Paris, Russia's proposal to postpone voting for six months passed by 28 votes to 23.

Al-Malki told Ma'an he did not know why Russia suggested the delay but that he had invited the Russian ambassador to a meeting to explain the decision.

He said the delay was unfortunate and would allow Israel to continue its attacks on Palestinians.

"All Israeli attempts to obliterate the Palestinian cultural identity through settlements and settlers attacks are doomed to fail. The Palestinian people are steadfast, and will not leave their lands," the foreign minister added.

The issues postponed include the implementation of a decision calling on Israel to cooperate with Jordan's restoration and preservation of the al-Magharbeh gate leading to al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City. Jordan is the custodian of Christian and Muslim sites in the city.

The implementation of decisions relating to heritage sites in Hebron and Bethlehem, Palestinian cultural and educational institutions and the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip were also delayed.

Prior to the postponement, PLO official Hanan Ashrawi had urged the international community to "support all Palestinian diplomatic moves to ensure the achievement of the Palestinian people’s inalienable rights.

"The ability to protect our cultural heritage sites is part of our right to self-determination. We are advancing towards freedom and independence using all the tools available to us within the framework of international law, including our admission as a State to the United Nations and all of its specialized agencies."

Last week UNESCO said admitting Palestine to the cultural agency was at its "worst ever financial situation" after its biggest contributor the United States froze funding in response.

The UN body has been forced to slash spending, freeze job hires and cut programs after losing the US funding, which had made up 22 percent of its budget, UNESCO's Irina Bokova said.

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