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Israel suspends cooperation with UNESCO after Jerusalem vote

In photo: Jewish worshippers pray at the Western wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, on October 14, 2016 in Jerusalem's Old City. Photograph: (AFP)

WION Jerusalem Oct 15, 2016, 06.31 AM (IST)

Isreal suspended ties with UNESCO after the UN cultural organisation adopted two resolutions on the occupied Palestinian territories which it said ignored 'Jewish ties to Jerusalem' ahead of a final vote next week.

The resolutions adopted at committee stage on Thursday refer to "Occupied Palestine" and the need to "safeguard the Palestinian cultural heritage and the distinctive character of east Jerusalem", AFP reported.

Education minister Naftali Bennett in a letter to the UNESCO director-general accused the UN body of "thousands of years of Jewish ties to Jerusalem" and aiding "Islamist terror."

"I have notified the Israel National Commission for UNESCO to suspend all professional activities with the international organisation," he said.

The resolution refers to Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam's third-holiest site, without any reference to the site also being revered by Jews as the Temple Mount.

UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova distanced herself from the resolutions earlier on Friday. "The heritage of Jerusalem is indivisible, and each of its communities has a right to the explicit recognition of their history and relationship with the city," she said in a statement.

UNESCO's executive board chairman Micheal Worbs had on Friday called for a delay on the vote on two resolutions on annexed Jerusalem. The 58 member states of the board usually follow the votes made by committees.

Israel and the United States lost their voting rights because they suspended funding to UNESCO in 2011 because Palestinians were admitted as members.

The two resolutions were put forward by several Arab countries including Egypt and Lebanon. The resolution was adopted by  24 votes in favour and six against with 26 abstentions and two absentees. Israel is referred to throughout as the "occupying power".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the resolution as 'absurd'. He said it "ignores the unique historic connection of Judaism to the Temple Mount" by referring to the site by its Arabic name, the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, reported AFP.

On Tuesday, the UNESCO executive board will decide whether the draft decision will be passed unanimously or be put to a vote and further debate.

The status of Jerusalem is the thorniest issue of the decades-long Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Israel captured East Jerusalem during the 1967 war and later annexed it in a move not recognised by the international community, declaring the whole city its indivisible capital.

The Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of their promised future state.

(WION with inputs from agencies)

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