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UNESCO Debating Jordan’s Right to Nominate East Jerusalem As Site for Cultural Protection

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The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) began a two-day debate today on Jordan’s right to nominate East Jerusalem as part of “the cultural heritage of mankind meriting protection and conservation.”

If the special session accepts Jordan’s right to place East Jerusalem on UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee list as the country responsible for its protection, it would, in effect, deny Israel’s sovereignty of this area. Sites placed on the heritage list are subject to international supervision to assure that their historical and cultural aspects are cared for and protected.

According to a UNESCO convention, the country governing an area must recommend it for protection or agree to have it recommended for protection and conservation. Thus, if UNESCO accepts Jordan’s request to propose East Jerusalem for protection it would also be accepting Jordan’s right to take part in the international supervision of that area. The two-day session, which was called after Jordan, backed by other states, recommended that the Old City be placed on the heritage list, must decide who controls East Jerusalem in legal terms and whether the convention refers to legal or physical control.

ISRAEL WARNS AGAINST SETTING A PRECEDENT

Israel has not signed the convention and Israel’s representative to UNESCO, Yael Vered, was denied permission to address the opening session. She said she was told “that Israel could not speak as it had not signed the convention.” Some 60 UN-member countries have signed it, including the United States, France, Argentina, West Germany, Jordan and Iraq. The Soviet Union has not yet signed the convention.

An Israeli government legal expert said that “aside from exploiting a cultural convention for political ends against Israel, the precedent” of agreeing to Jordan as the protector of East Jerusalem “could prove difficult for others as well.” He said if Jordan’s case was accepted, then Spain could apply to protect British-ruled Gibraltar or Colombia could apply to protect the Panama Canal Zone.

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