US 'strongly opposes' UNESCO proposal to reclassify Western Wall

"The United States is in close, urgent consultation with UNESCO member states, UNESCO leadership, and Israel to discuss this matter," State Department spokesperson tells 'Post."

October 20, 2015 21:19
1 minute read.
Western Wall

Pessah cleaning at Western Wall. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

WASHINGTON -- The Unites States "strongly opposes" a draft resolution before the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that would reclassify the Western Wall as a Muslim site within the al Aqsa Mosque complex.

The Western Wall, also known as Kotel, is the last remaining structure of the Second Jewish Temple, and is considered Judaism's holiest site.

"The United States strongly opposes this resolution and any such use of international fora such as UNESCO to inflame tension in the region and alter the status quo at the Holy Sites," Edgar Vasquez, a State Department spokesperson, told The Jerusalem Post. "The United States is in close, urgent consultation with UNESCO member states, UNESCO leadership, and Israel to discuss this matter."

"One-sided anti-Israel resolutions have been a recurring challenge at UNESCO since 2009," Vasquez continued, "and in all such circumstances the United States has blocked consensus on such resolutions by calling for a vote and voting against the texts."

While UNESCO's executive board is considering the draft– proposed by Algeria, Kuwait, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates on behalf of the Palestinian Authority– its director general, Irina Bokova, condemned the resolution as a "deplorable" move that could further incite violence on the ground in Jerusalem.

"She deplores the recent proposals under discussion by the UNESCO Executive Board that could be seen to alter the status of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls, inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, and that could further incite tensions," Bokova's office said in a statement.

The State Department praised Bokova for her stance, which, according to Vasquez, underscored "the shared religious and cultural value of Jerusalem's Holy Sites."

"We agree with Director-General Bokova that we all have responsibility to UNESCO’s mandate, to take decisions that promote dialogue, tolerance and peace," he added.

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