Israel and Palestinians Agree on U.N. work in Jerusalem

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A Palestinian man walked past ultra-Orthodox Jews as they prayed in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem last year. Unesco experts will inspect cultural heritage sites in mid-May.    Israel and the Palestinians agreed on Tuesday to renewed involvement by Unesco, the United Nations cultural agency, in the Old City of Jerusalem. The agreement was a small but significant breakthrough in the often highly politicized workings of the agency.  

The deal concerns the Old City and its walls, including the Western Wall and an ascent to the Temple Mount, or Haram al-Sharif. It was brokered in an unusual partnership between the United States and Russia, with the help of Jordan, Brazil and the director general of Unesco, Irina Bokova. As part of the arrangement, the Palestinians agreed to postpone five resolutions critical of Israel that were pending before the agency.

The willingness of the Palestinians to table the resolutions was a direct result of recent visits to the Middle East by President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, who secured a Palestinian agreement not to “initiate negative moves in international organizations,” said a Middle Eastern ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, as Unesco is formally known. The agency, which is based in Paris, accepted the Palestinians as full members in 2011, though the United Nations has not done so.

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