Search

 

Cablegate: Jerusalem - Mughrabi Gate at Unesco's 180th Executive

O 231233Z OCT 08
FM UNESCO PARIS FR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
RUEHKU/AMEMBASSY KUWAIT
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT
RUEHKU/AMEMBASSY KUWAIT
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH
RUEHCO/AMEMBASSY COTONOU
RUEHVL/AMEMBASSY VILNIUS
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO
RUEHSA/AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK

UNCLAS PARIS FR 001944


SENSITIVE
SIPDIS


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: UNESCO PREL KPAL JO IS
SUBJECT: JERUSALEM - MUGHRABI GATE AT UNESCO'S 180TH EXECUTIVE
BOARD SESSION

REF: AMMAN 2632

1. (SBU) Summary: At its autumn (180th) session, UNESCO's Executive
Board had great difficulty achieving consensus on a decision
regarding the proposed Mughrabi ascent to Jerusalem's Temple Mount.
For the first time Jordan and the Palestinians insisted on involving
the Chairman of the Executive Board and his six regional Vice-Chairs
(Norway, South Africa, India, Brazil, Egypt, and Lithuania) in
discussion of this issue. Jordan and the Palestinians also demanded
that the Board express "concern" at what they claimed was Israel's
"unilateral decision" to proceed with construction of the Mughrabi
ascent. Israel opposed both these procedural and substantive
demands. The Israeli Ambassador wanted UNESCO Deputy Director
General (DDG) Marcio Barbosa (Brazil) to continue quiet, backstage
mediation as he has in the past and only agreed with greatest
reluctance to a short "information meeting" with the Chairman and
Vice-Chairs. The Israeli adamantly refused to agree to any proposal
that would have had the Board express "concern" at the Mughrabi
situation or describe the decision of the Jerusalem planning
authority to proceed with construction of the ascent as
"unilateral."
2. (SBU) Summary Continued: In the end, the "information meeting"
with the Vice-Chairs contributed little but confusion, as the
Vice-Chairpersons subsequently tried to involve themselves in the
negotiations. After a dramatic failure to agree on a consensus
decision at the Board's scheduled closing session on October 17, the
Board agreed exceptionally to suspend that session until October 21.
Ultimately, the Jordanian MFA's Legal Advisor flew to Paris and
made a compromise proposal on October 20 that did not violate
Israel's "red lines." It was adopted without debate on October 21,
a full four days after the Executive Board had been expected to
adjourn(see para 12 for the final text of the decision). End
Summary.
3. (U) Issues involving the Temple Mount (a World Heritage Site) and
its reconstruction of the Mughrabi ascent have been a hardy
perennial on the agenda of UNESCO's twice yearly Executive Boards.
UNESCO has a tradition of dealing with matters by consensus and for
several years its 58-member Executive Board has been able to
maintain this custom with regard to issues relating to Jerusalem and
the Temple Mount. In recent Board meetings, DDG Barbosa has met
behind the scenes separately and together with the Israelis,
Jordanians, and Palestinians (none of whom are currently Board
members) to hammer out consensus texts for presentation to the Board
- usually late in its three week session. These have been approved
by the plenary rapidly and without debate. The U.S. has strongly
supported Barbosa while pushing to have technical issues related to
the design the Mughrabi ascent referred to the World Heritage
Committee, the treaty body of UNESCO's 1972 World Heritage
Convention.
4. (SBU) Negotiations, however, did not follow the usual pattern at
the most recent Executive Board session which began on September 30
and finally adjourned on October 21. As foreshadowed in reftel,
Jordan and the Palestinians took a significantly harder line. They
began by demanding a "new format" for negotiations, requesting the
involvement of the Chairman of the Executive Board and the six
regional Vice-Chairs. (Comment: We suspect the Jordanians and
Palestinians felt the usual backroom talks led by Barbosa had become
too routine and lacking in theatrics. End Comment.) Israel
initially rejected the idea, preferring to rely as normal on the
DDG's good offices . Under great pressure from Executive Board
Chairman Olabiyi Yai (Benin), however, Israeli Ambassador David
Kornbluth reluctantly agreed to participate in an "information
meeting" on the morning of Thursday, October 16, in which Israel,
Jordan, and the Palestinians explained their points of view to the
six Vice-Chairpersons and the ambassadors of the U.S., France
(current European Union President), and Spain (current chair of the
World Heritage Committee).
5. (SBU) The "information meeting" meeting achieved nothing beyond
adding confusion to an already difficult situation. Israel, Jordan,

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: UNESCO PREL KPAL JO IS
SUBJECT: JERUSALEM - MUGHRABI GATE AT UNESCO'S 180TH EXECUTIVE
BOARD SESSION

and the Palestinians had by this point reached an impasse over the
substance of the draft. The Jordanians and Palestinians wanted the
Executive Board to "express its deep concern with regard to the
decision taken, in a unilateral way, by the Jerusalem District
Planning and Construction Commission to approve the town planning
scheme for the Mughrabi ascent." This was completely unacceptable
to the Israelis who said they would not agree to a decision that had
the Board expressing "concern," and that characterized the Jerusalem
planning authority's act as a "unilateral decision." Throughout the
day on October 16, DDG Barbosa met with the concerned delegations to
see if he could come up with wording that would bridge the gap. The
U.S. stayed in close touch with the Israeli Ambassador, and the
U.S., French, and Spanish ambassadors working together made several
drafting suggestions to Barbosa without becoming directly involved
in shuttling between the parties. None of the many proposals made
won the agreement of all, and the day ended without progress.
6. (SBU) The situation became dramatic on Friday, October 17 as the
deadline for adjournment of the Executive Board loomed. Chairman
Yai convened a morning meeting to discuss the situation with the
U.S., French, and Spanish ambassadors and the four regional
Vice-Chairpersons (Egypt, India, Brazil, and South Africa) available
to meet on such short notice. The French strongly criticized
further involvement of the Vice-Chairs, and the U.S. Ambassador left
the meeting in protest when the Chairman and Vice-Chairs began to
consider involving themselves further in Barbosa's efforts to broker
a deal. Despite the meddling, Barbosa shuttled fruitlessly between
the Israelis and Jordanians and Palestinians until the Israeli
Ambassador left the premises at 4:00 p.m. in time to be home for the
onset of the Jewish Sabbath. With delegations milling about
impatiently in the main meeting room waiting for the Board's final
plenary session to begin, Chairman Yai convened yet another meeting
of the Vice-Chairs and the U.S., France, and Spain. By this time,
many delegations feared that the Arabs wanted to force a rare and
extraordinary vote on a draft decision that would contain their
preferred language.
7. (SBU) The involvement of the Chairman and his colleagues did not
benefit the Jordanians and Palestinians as much as they had hoped.
After conferring, the Chairman and his Vice-Chairs summoned the
Jordanians and Palestinians and made clear to them that UNESCO's
tradition of consensus decision-making must be upheld and a vote
avoided. They attempted to convince Jordan and the Palestinians to
agree to language that the Israeli Ambassador had said he could
accept before his departure, but the former once again refused.
When the Executive Board's plenary session finally resumed at 7:00
p.m., Chairman Yai distributed a draft decision as a supposed
chairman's text that included language Israel could accept, but
which the Jordanians and Palestinians had already rejected. In
doing this, Yai broke the UNESCO custom that a chairman's text is
always a consensus document acceptable to all parties. The 58
delegations present sat in stunned silence for a moment while Yai
attempted to gavel the resolution adopted, even though delegates had
had only a few moments to study it. The French Ambassador, however,
objected to immediate adoption of the text, claiming the move was
over-hasty. This opened the floodgates and numerous delegations
spoke up in opposition. Finally, the French ambassador moved that
the meeting of the Board be adjourned until Tuesday evening October
21 (N.B. four days after the regularly scheduled end of the Board's
session).
8. (SBU) The weekend and Monday, October 20th saw still more
negotiations. The Jordanian MFA Legal Advisor was dispatched to
Paris with a new formulation for the draft decision. Barbosa sent
this latest text to Israel's ambassador, David Kornbluth, who by
then was in Israel on vacation. Kornbluth said he could accept it,
and the text (see para 12 below) was finally adopted without debate
and by consensus on October 21.
9. (SBU) Comment: The Jordanians and Palestinians looked pleased
when this decision was finally adopted. It is hard, however, to see
how the final result is significantly better than the many formulas
they were offered and rejected last week. They did not succeed in

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: UNESCO PREL KPAL JO IS
SUBJECT: JERUSALEM - MUGHRABI GATE AT UNESCO'S 180TH EXECUTIVE
BOARD SESSION

having the Board itself express collective concern, and the balanced
reference to unilateral action echoes the formula agreed at the July
World Heritage Committee meeting in Quebec. One can only speculate
as to why the Arabs chose not seek a vote on their preferred
language, as some had anticipated. They may have been influenced by
Egypt which wanted to avoid a major clash over Jerusalem at this
Board, fearing harm to the chances of Egypt's candidate to replace
Director General Matsuura when he retires next year. They may also
have been deterred by the opposition to a vote that came from India
and other G-77 countries. Finally, they may have calculated that a
victorious vote might have led Israel to break off completely the
dialogue on issues related to the Temple Mount that is effectively
being conducted through UNESCO's good offices.

10. (SBU) Comment continued: As satisfying as a consensus agreement
on such an emotional issue is, we cannot become complacent. The
decision adopted requires the Director General to report on the
Mughrabi ascent situation at the Executive Board's April 2009
meeting, and this will give Jordan and the Palestinians an
opportunity to raise their concerns again. It will be very
important ensure the issue is handled carefully. DDG Barbosa has
demonstrated talent for the patient, quiet diplomacy needed to bring
these difficult parties together. He does not need kibbitzing from
delegations which may not know this issue well and may be more
interested in posturing than in finding solutions. We can reliably
predict, however, that the regional Vice-Chairs, in particular
India, will try to use what happened at this Board to claim a role
for themselves whenever this issue comes up again. In speeches
given after adoption of the decision on October 21, both India and
Brazil commended Chairman Yai for his decision to involve the
Vice-Chairs and expressed the hope that they will be involved in the
future. Russia spoke up to say that it did not consider that the
Eastern Europe Vice-Chair, Lithuania, spoke for Russia, and to ask
that Russia be included in any succeeding negotiations on this
topic. This way lies danger, and we will have to be extra vigilant
in succeeding Boards to ensure that Barbosa is left free to do his
job without having the Vice-Chairs and others interfering. We doubt
in any case that Israel will be agreeable to participate in talks
that involve the other Vice-Chairs.

11. (SBU) Comment Continued: Competent, even-handed leadership is
important if UNESCO is to deal effectively with the highly sensitive
issues that surround the Temple Mount World Heritage site. Director
General Matsuura and DDG Barbosa have dealt with these issues with
professionalism and impartiality. Matsuura and Barbosa must leave
office, however, in the autumn of 2009. It will be important to
ensure that they have equally competent and impartial replacements.
In the wrong hands, UNESCO could exacerbate the already tense
situation in Jerusalem rather than provide a forum, as it does now,
where Israel, the Jordanians, and Palestinians can discuss
management of the Temple Mount site.

12. (U) Following is the text of the decision finally adopted by the
UNESCO Executive Board:

Begin Text.

The Executive Board,

1. Having examined document 180 EX/5 Add.3 Rev.,

2. Recalling 176 EX/Special Plenary Meeting/Decision, 177
EX/Decision 20, 179 EX/Decisions 9 and 52,

3. Further recalling Decisions 31 COM 7A.18 and 32 COM 7A.18 adopted
by the World Heritage Committee at its 31st (Christchurch, 2007) and
32nd (Quebec City, 2008) sessions respectively,

4. Also recalling the relevant provisions on the protection of

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: UNESCO PREL KPAL JO IS
SUBJECT: JERUSALEM - MUGHRABI GATE AT UNESCO'S 180TH EXECUTIVE
BOARD SESSION

cultural heritage including, as appropriate, the four Geneva
Conventions (1949), the Hague Convention for the Protection of
Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of 1954, the
Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural
Heritage of 1972, the inscription of the Old City of Jerusalem and
its Walls at the request of Jordan on the World Heritage List (1981)
and on the List of World Heritage in Danger (1982), and the
recommendations, resolutions and decisions of UNESCO,

5. Reaffirming the purpose and spirit of the professional encounter
at the technical level of 13 January 2008, as well as the follow-up
meeting of 24 February 2008,

6. Being aware that the process for the design of the Mughrabi
ascent, which allows for the taking into consideration of the
proposals submitted during the professional encounter, is still
under way, and that the World Heritage Centre is following closely
the developments associated with this process through its Reinforced
Monitoring Mechanism,

7. Being aware of the deep concerns regarding the decision taken by
the Jerusalem District Planning and Construction Commission on the
town planning scheme for the Mughrabi ascent,

8. Requests that, despite this decision, the process for the design
of the Mughrabi ascent be inclusive of all concerned parties, in
accordance with the spirit and content of previous World Heritage
Committee decisions;

9. Reaffirms that no measures, unilateral or otherwise, should be
taken which will affect the authenticity and integrity of the site,
in accordance with the Convention for the Protection of the World
Cultural and Natural Heritage of 1972;

10. Reiterates the request made by the World Heritage Committee at
its 32nd session in Decision 32 COM 7A.18 that the Israeli
authorities continue the cooperation engaged with all concerned
parties, in particular with Jordanian and Waqf experts;

11. Reiterates the request made by the World Heritage Committee at
its 32nd session in Decision 32 COM 7A.18 that the World Heritage
Centre organize a technical follow-up meeting at the site with all
concerned parties for additional exchanges of information to enable
all necessary inputs to be considered;

12. Notes with satisfaction that the follow-up meeting requested by
the World Heritage Committee at its 32nd session in Decision 32 COM
7A.18 is tentatively scheduled for early November 2008;

13. Expresses its thanks to the Director-General for the action he
has taken to facilitate the dialogue and professional exchanges
between all the concerned parties;

14. Invites the Director-General to submit to it a progress report
thereon at its 181st session.

End text.

ENGELKEN

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO: