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December 7, 2015 10:30 am

Austrian Minister Nixes Israel Visit Over East Jerusalem Meeting With Israeli Counterpart

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Austrian Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner. Photo: Wikipedia.

Austrian Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner. Photo: Wikipedia. – Austrian Science, Research and Economy Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner canceled a planned visit to Israel after his host — Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis — insisted on meeting him in his eastern Jerusalem office. The visit was supposed to culminate with the two countries signing scientific cooperation agreements.

Mitterlehner was scheduled to arrive in Israel next week, but decided to cancel the trip after Akunis said the officials’ meetings would have to take place at the science and technology ministry, located in eastern Jerusalem, just north of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. It is part of a large complex that houses several government agencies. While Jerusalem was united following the 1967 Six-Day War, Austria and most other countries do not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the capital’s east. Mitterlehner suggested the meeting be held at the Knesset instead, or even in Tel Aviv, but Akunis refused.

“With all due respect to the Austrian minister, Jerusalem has been our capital for the past 3,000 years; holding a meeting there trumps any other option,” Akunis said Thursday. “The government complex in east Jerusalem is part and parcel of Jerusalem; the Jerusalem Law says as much. Had I agreed to his request I might as well have agreed to the division of the city—which is never going to happen. We are not going to divide Jerusalem, just like the Austrians will never divide Vienna.”

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