Abbas confirms Jordan as custodian of Jerusalem holy sites
Palestinian President Abbas and King Abdullah II of Jordan sign deal to confirm historic role of monarchy as custodian of holy sites in Jerusalem
King Abdullah II of Jordan, left, welcomes Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after his arrival at the Royal Palace in Amman, Jordan, Sunday, March 31, 2013 (Photo: AP)
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas signed a deal with King Abdullah II on Sunday confirming Jordan's historic role as custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem, the palace said.
Outlining their coordination, the two sides stressed their "common goal to defending" Jerusalem and its sacred sites against attempts to Judaise the Holy City, particularly the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound.
"In this historic agreement, Abbas reiterated that the king is the custodian of holy sites in Jerusalem and that he has the right to exert all legal efforts to preserve them, especially Al-Aqsa mosque," the palace said in a statement.
"It is also emphasising the historical principles agreed by Jordan and Palestine to exert joint efforts to protect the city and holy sites from Israeli Judaisation attempts."
The agreement confirms "Jordan's role since the era of the late King Hussein," Abbas was quoted as saying in the statement. "It consolidates what the two sides (Jordanians and Palestinians) have established decades ago."
Al-Aqsa compound, known to Muslims as Al-Haram Al-Sharif, is Islam's third holiest site after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, and it houses the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosques.
But it is also Judaism's most sacred place of worship, venerated by Jews as Temple Mount, the site where King Herod's temple stood before it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
It is one of the most sensitive sites in Jerusalem, and clashes frequently break out between Palestinians and Israeli security forces. "Jerusalem is currently facing major challenges and attempts to change its Arab, Muslim and Christian identity," the palace said.
Israel captured the mostly Arab eastern sector of the city from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised internationally, but the Palestinians want east Jerusalem as capital of their future state.
Jordan, which has a 1994 peace treaty with Israel, administers the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem through its ministry of Awqaf and religious affairs.