U.S., Lithuania spat over Jewish cemetery

The U.S. House of Representatives is considering a rebuke of Lithuania over construction atop a Jewish cemetery.

A congressional resolution, which has the potential to upset bilateral relations between the United States and Lithuania, chastises the Lithuanian government for not stopping the building of luxury apartments.

The Snipiskes Cemetery in Vilnius was built in the 16th century and closed in the 19th century. Developers built on a site adjacent to the burial ground prior to last year, but international outcry led the government to form a commission to mark out the cemetery.

Construction began in February on a site that is likely above the cemetery, but the government did not issue a stop order until September, when much of the work was already done.

“Today the construction continues and the fate of the remaining parcels, some of which are most certainly atop the cemetery, is unknown,” wrote American Jewish Committee director Rabbi Andrew Baker in a letter supporting the resolution, which charges the Lithuanian government with violating a 2002 bilateral agreement to preserve the cultural heritage of religious and ethnic groups.

The daily newspaper Lietuvos Zinios reported that Lithuanian presidential adviser Vilius Kavaliauskas called the resolution “highly unpleasant and exaggerated in some places.”

Lithuanian Ambassador Audrius Bruzga met with Rep. Mike Ferguson (R-N.J.), who proposed the House resolution, on Nov. 16 and stressed that the issue was being addressed by the courts in Vilnius. The bill has 50 co-sponsors and wlll be added soon to the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s calendar.

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