Defying John Kerry, Palestinian Authority Appeals Directly to UNESCO
The Palestinian Authority renewed its request to have ancient terraces in the West Bank village of Battir recognized as a protected site by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, Israel’s Walla reported.
The move is in defiance of a PA agreement with US Secretary of State John Kerry to hold off on any unilateral appeals to agencies affiliated with the United Nations throughout the duration of ongoing peace talks between the PA and Israel.
The PA formally turned to UNESCO two weeks ago and asked it to implement an emergency procedure to grant World Heritage Site status to the terraces with the aim of blocking Israel’s planned construction of a segment of a security fence in the area. The move was first attempted by the PA in 2012.
One of John Kerry’s conditions for agreeing to support the resumption of peace talks was that the PA would not sidestep direct negotiations by pushing for recognition unilaterally in United Nations forums, as it did in 2011, Walla said.
This instance marks the first PA attempt, since the start of the framework agreement talks in July, to act against its presumptive peace partner Israel by turning to the UN.
However, throughout the entire period of the negotiations, PA representatives have made overtures to dozens of international organizations – with the aim of gaining recognition as an independent state in the event that the US-backed talks fail.
Battir is located six kilometers west of Bethlehem and southwest of Jerusalem, just above the old Jaffa-Jerusalem railway route, which served as the 1949 armistice line between Israel and Jordan until the Six-Day War in 1967, when it was captured by Israel.
Battir has been identified as the site of ancient Betar, the last stronghold of the Second Jewish Revolt against the Romans, where its leader, Bar-Kochba, met his death in 135 CE.