Palestinians want Bethlehem on UN heritage list

AFP , Monday 7 Feb 2011

Palestinian Authority asks UNESCO to add the town of Bethlehem to the list of of world heritage sites

The Palestinian Authority is to launch a campaign to get the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Jesus's traditional birthplace, added to UNESCO's list of world heritage sites, officials said on Sunday.

The Palestinian tourism ministry will launch the drive on Monday to get the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation to recognise the "Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage route," to their list, a ministry statement said.

"Palestine is home to some of the most important heritage sites in the world. One of the most striking and universally significant is the Old City of Bethlehem and the birthplace of Jesus," the statement quoted Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat as saying.

"The Palestinians are eager to share their heritage with the rest of the world," he added.

The heritage of the Holy Land has taken on central role in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Last November Israel reduced its cooperation with UNESCO in protest at its description of 'Rachel's Tomb', as mosque of Bilal ibn Rabah.

Earlier this year, Israel announced plans to include the Bilal ibn Rabah Mosque's site and the Sanctuary of Abraham in a 'national heritage restoration plan', a decision criticised by UNESCO as "escalating tension" in the area.

Israel defended the decision at the time, saying the plan involved only restoration work and promising there would be no attempt to change the delicate status quo at these sites.

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