British minister visits Temple Mount, affirms Jordanian custodianship

UK minister for the Middle East affirms his belief that the Temple Mount should remain under Jordanian control while visiting the West Bank and PA

 Lord Ahmad 2023 at temple mount (photo credit: British Consulate General Jerusalem)
Lord Ahmad 2023 at temple mount
(photo credit: British Consulate General Jerusalem)

British Minister of State for the Middle East Lord Tariq Ahmad affirmed Jordan’s special custodial role on the Temple Mount when he visited the flashpoint site in Jerusalem that is holy to all three major monotheistic religions.

“I emphasized the UK’s unwavering support for Jordanian Custodianship of Jerusalem’s Holy Sites [and] for the Status Quo” to be maintained, Ahmad tweeted after the visit.

His trip to the Aqsa Mosque compound on the site, which is the holiest in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam, is the first high-level foreign visit since National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir caused international controversy when he went to the courtyard there last week.

Israel insisted that his visit was in keeping with past protocols and did not violate the status quo that anyone can enter the site, but only Muslims can pray there.

Ahmad, who is Muslim, prayed at the site and was accompanied by Jerusalem Wakf Department director Sheikh Azzam Al-Khatib.

 Lord Ahmad 2023 (credit: British Consulate General Jerusalem) Lord Ahmad 2023 (credit: British Consulate General Jerusalem)

Lord Ahmad's beliefs in what is needed for a two-state solution

From Jerusalem, Ahmad went to Hebron, where he visited a plastics factory, Royal Industrial Trading Co. He tweeted that a “two-state solution needs a strong Palestinian economy.”

He also went to a school funded by the UNRWA and then traveled to the South Hebron Hills to visit Palestinians in danger of eviction from homes Israel considers to be illegal. Great Britain and the EU have funded some of the illegal structures in that area, a move that has created friction between them and the Jewish state.

“I visited the site of a European and UK donor-funded school facing demolition in Masafer Yatta today,” Ahmad said.

“The UK continues to urge Israel to desist demolitions and evictions that cause unnecessary suffering and are illegal under [international humanitarian law] in all but the most exceptional circumstances,” he wrote.

On Monday, he met with Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and encouraged Israel to avoid “provocative unilateral” actions in Jerusalem and the occupied Palestinian territories, which he said “only serve to undermine prospects for a lasting and peaceful solution.”

Ahmad also met with Palestinian Authority officials, including Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki.

“I stressed our commitment to the Palestinian people [and] the bilateral relationship, [and] emphasized our concern at recent violence in the [occupied Palestinian territories] that fuels instability,” he tweeted.