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Israel suspends cooperation with UNESCO after Jerusalem vote

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JERUSALEM: Israel suspended cooperation with UNESCO on Friday after the UN cultural organisation adopted two resolutions on annexed east Jerusalem ahead of a final vote next week.

In a letter sent to UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova, Education Minister Naftali Bennett accused the body of ignoring “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.

UNESCO had no immediate comment on the Israeli move.

The resolutions adopted at committee stage on Thursday refer to “Occupied Palestine” and aim to “safeguard the Palestinian cultural heritage and the distinctive character of east Jerusalem.”

They refer to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in east Jerusalem’s Old City – Islam’s third holiest site – without any reference to the site also being revered by Jews as the Temple Mount.

Participants said that the resolutions, which were put forward by several Arab countries including Egypt, Lebanon and Algeria, were adopted by 24 votes to six with 26 abstentions and two absentees.

They are to be put to the UNESCO Executive Board on Tuesday but in general, it votes in line with the decisions taken by committees.

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

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