GENEVA, February 24, 2007 (WAFA) -The head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) dispatched a team to investigate the project initiated by Israel in the Old City of Jerusalem.
"I believe that such a mission constitutes the most appropriate response to the present situation, and could also be a means of helping to alleviate tensions and restore a climate of confidence favourable to the dialogue that we all wish for," UNESCO's Director-General Ko´chiro Matsuura said.
The Old City is protected by the UN Convention the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972), and is inscribed on the UN World Heritage List and the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Concerned by the impact of recent controversial construction work on access to the al-Haram al-Sharif, Mr. Matsuura warned earlier this month against the exacerbation of tensions when work commenced on the site. "The wisest course would be to suspend any action that could endanger the spirit of mutual respect until such time as the will to dialogue prevails once again," he said in a statement at the time.
In that statement, he also cited the decision by the World Heritage Committee in 2006 in Lithuania declaring its "concern as to the obstacles and practices, such as archaeological excavations or new constructions, which could alter the outstanding universal value of the cultural heritage of the Old City of Jerusalem, including its urban and social fabric as well as its visual integrity."
The assessment team, which will report to Mr. Matsuura upon its return from Israel, will be led by the Director of UNESCO's World Heritage Centre, Francesco Bandarin, and will include the Director-General of the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property, Mounir Bouchenaki, the President of the International Council on Monuments and Sites, Michael Petzel, and the World Heritage Centre's Veronique Dauge.