Dig at Mugrabi Gate (Archive photo)
Jordan protests against Israel's Jerusalem dig plans
FM Salah Bashir summons Israeli ambassador to protest against reported plans for excavation, construction work near Al-Aqsa mosque compound. Jordanian MP: Dig will lead to new violent conflict in Middle East because Jerusalem a red line for Muslims, Arabs
Jordan said on Thursday it summoned the Israeli ambassador to protest against plans for excavation and construction work near the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Jerusalem's most volatile holy site.
Question of holy sites' ownership less urgent than terror, refugee problem
"Foreign Minister Salah Bashir summoned the Israeli ambassador this week to officially inform him that Jordan rejects such illegal measures," said MP Mohammed Abu Hdeib, head of the lower house of parliament's committee on international affairs, after meeting Bashir on Thursday.
"Israel plans excavations near Mughrabi Gate (of the mosque) and wants to build a bridge there, violating the 1994 peace treaty with Jordan and international treaties," he said.
Abu Hdeib told AFP that the planned work "threatens the foundations of Al-Aqsa," and warned: "This would also lead to a new violent conflict in the Middle East because Jerusalem is a red line for Muslims and Arabs."
The Al-Aqsa site is also revered by Jews as the location of their ancient temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
'Halt any unilateral actions'
In February last year, Israel began excavation work on a pathway leading from the Western Wall to the compound, Islam's third holiest site, sparking Muslim outrage and prompting UNESCO to call for an immediate halt to the work.
The Jerusalem mayor's office suspended work the same month, but failed to appease the Muslim authorities which asserted that the dig, while not under Al-Aqsa mosque itself, could harm its foundations.
"The foreign minister demanded that Israel halt any unilateral actions that might affect the status of Jerusalem, especially the issue of Al-Mughrabi Gate," foreign ministry spokesman Nassar Habasheneh told AFP.
Jordan is traditionally considered the guardian of Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, which it manages in coordination with the Palestinian authorities.
"We have information that Jerusalem municipality will take a decision soon to resume work there," Habasheneh said.
Bashir later held talks on the issue with ambassadors of the European Union and the UN Security Council's five permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.
"The minister demanded that these countries use their relations with Israel to stop it from making unilateral moves in Jerusalem that would change the legal status of the holy city, including construction work on Al-Mughrabi Gate," the state-run Petra news agency reported.