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ISRAEL

Italy PM brands UNESCO Jerusalem vote ‘unacceptable’

Italy's Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, on Friday described a UNESCO resolution condemning Israel's actions in east Jerusalem as "incomprehensible and unacceptable" and said his officials should have voted against it.

Italy PM brands UNESCO Jerusalem vote 'unacceptable'
The al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City. Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP

Italy joined most of its European partners in abstaining on a vote which criticizes the Jewish state for restricting access to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in a way that Israel says denies Judaism's connection to the city.

“It is incomprehensible and unacceptable, it was a mistake,” Renzi told Italian radio.

The premier said he had issued instructions to Italian diplomats to take a different stance if the same issue arises again in international bodies.

“Suggesting that Jerusalem and Judaism have no connection is like suggesting the sun causes darkness,” he said. “If we have to break with European unity on the subject, so be it.”

The executive board of UNESCO, the UN's cultural, scientific and educational arm, backed the controversial resolution on “occupied Palestine” on Tuesday.

Referring throughout to “the occupying power,” it condemns Israel for restricting Muslims' access to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound – Islam's third holiest site – and criticizes damage by security forces to the site and nearby excavations.

Israel is furious that the resolution refers to the Jerusalem Old City site only by its Muslim name, Al-Aqsa or Al-Haram al-Sharif.

It is considered holy by Muslims, Christians and Jews. Jews refer to it as the Temple Mount and it is considered the holiest site in Judaism.

Israel occupied east Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967 in a move never recognized by the international community.

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UNESCO

Venice may be put on Unesco endangered list if cruise ships not banned

The UN art heritage agency has said it may put Venice on its ‘endangered’ list if the lagoon city does not permanently ban cruise ships from docking there.

Venice may be put on Unesco endangered list if cruise ships not banned
Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

The Italian lagoon city, along with Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the city of Budapest, and Liverpool’s waterfront may be put on the list of “World Heritage in Danger,” meaning they risk being removed from Unesco’s prestigious list of world heritage sites completely.

Unesco said on Monday the issue will be discussed at a meeting of its World Heritage Committee, which oversees the coveted accolade, in Fuzhou, China, on July 16-31.

It “would be a very serious thing for our country” if Venice was removed, said Italy’s Culture Minister Dario Franceschini on Monday.

READ ALSO: ‘More local, more authentic’: How can Italy move toward responsible tourism in future?

The MSC Orchestra cruise ship arrives in Venice on June 3rd, 2021. Photo: ANDREA PATTARO/AFP

Participants at the China meeting will make the final decision on the deletion and warning proposals, and the agency could demand urgent action on cruise ships from the Italian government by next February.

There has long been concern about the impact of cruise ships on the city’s delicate structures and on the lagoon’s fragile ecosystem.

READ ALSO: Hundreds demonstrate against cruise ships’ return to Venice

The Italian government appeared to have passed a ban on cruise ships docking in Venice earlier this year – but the giant vessels continue to arrive in the city.

The government’s decree in fact did not constitute an immediate ban.

Instead, it said a plan for docking cruise ships outside Venice’s lagoon must be drawn up and implemented.

In the meantime, the ships will continue sailing through the lagoon and docking at the city’s industrial port, which has been the landing site for them since last December.

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