UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee decided to accept a petition by Jordan and
issued an official censure of Israel over
the archeological excavations near the Mughrabi Gate in the Jerusalem's Old City.
UNESCO's censure calls for the immediate cessation of all renovation work done on the Mughrabi Gate bridge, which leads from the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem to the to the al-Aqsa Mosque and Temple Mount.
Israel and Jordan had previously agreed that the existing bridge must be razed for safety reasons. Israel plans to build a new bridge on the site.
Jordan's petition was also signed by Egypt, Iraq and Bahrain. The decision was carried with a unanimous vote by UNESCO 21-member nations. Australia, Switzerland, Brazil and Mexico voiced their reservations over the strong anti-Israel language used in the resolution, but did not oppose it in the vote.
The four, along with Sweden and Estonia asked the committee to defer its debate on Jordan's petition, but were denied.
Israel's ambassador to UNESCO Nimrod Barkan, which has an observer's status, attempted to address the committee, but Egypt objected and he was denied the floor.
The World Heritage Committee also said it wanted a UNESCO mission to visit the site in order to ensure the work has been suspended. Israel announced in response it will not allow such a move.
Jordan's Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mohammad Kayed welcomed the decision. According to the Jordan Times, the decision stemmed from UNESCO's "deep concern over Israel’s continued excavations at the old Jerusalem’s gate and the area surrounding it, in addition to Israel’s failure to provide the World Heritage Centre with information on these excavation works."
Jerusalem sources told the newspaper Israel was "shocked" and "furious" over Jordan's scheme. "The Jordanians lied to us and to the Americans in an unbelievable way… The most astonishing thing is they don't even mention the agreement between Israel and Jordan," Barkan said.
News agencies contributed to this report