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UNESCO adopts decision to protect Jerusalem's heritage

June 23, 2014 11:47 P.M. (Updated: June 23, 2014 11:47 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian minister of foreign affairs said Monday that the UNESCO world heritage committee adopted a resolution to protect the walls and heritage of Jerusalem.

During the committee's 83rd session being held in Qatar, 12 countries voted for the resolution, one country against it, and eight countries abstained from voting, Riyadh al-Malki said.

He praised the resolution and thanked the Arab and Jordanian efforts that helped get it passed.

“Despite the occupation’s attempts to remove the Palestinian existence from Jerusalem, and attempts to deform history and demography, Jerusalem will remain the capital of world heritage, and the capital of the state of Palestine,” he added.

On Friday UNESCO granted endangered World Heritage status to ancient terraces in the West Bank that are under threat from the Israeli separation barrier.

After an emergency nomination by Palestinian officials, UNESCO's annual World Heritage Committee gathering in Doha voted to grant the protected status to the agricultural community of Battir, which straddles the Green Line just south of Jerusalem and where Israel plans to erect part of its separation wall.

The granting of the status is likely to boost the efforts of local residents locked in a high-profile court battle to change the route of the barrier.

"The site is inscribed, congratulations to Palestine," committee chairwoman Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani said after the resolution was narrowly approved, against the recommendations of UNESCO experts.

The Palestinian delegation rejoiced at the vote, hugging and cheering.

Battir is famous for its ancient terraces and Roman-era irrigation system which is still used by villagers for their crops.

But the village has come under threat from Israeli plans to erect part of the West Bank separation barrier there, which experts say will irretrievably damage the water system.

The Palestinians won membership in UNESCO in October 2011 and quickly moved to submit a number of sites for recognition, including an emergency application for Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity which was approved in June the following year, despite Israeli objections.

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