22 February 2010 A senior United Nations official today voiced concern at Israel’s announcement that it was adding two religious sites in occupied Palestinian territory to its list of national heritage sites, warning against moves that could prejudice the resumption of peace talks.
Noting that the Israeli announcement concerning the tombs of the biblical patriarch Abraham in Hebron and the biblical matriarch Rachel in Bethlehem had led to heightened tensions, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry stressed that the sites are of historical and religious significance not only to Judaism but also to Islam and Christianity.
“I urge Israel not to take any steps on the ground which undermine trust or could prejudice negotiations, the resumption of which should be the highest shared priority of all who seek peace,” he said in a statement, referring to Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that have been stalled for over a year.
“I also call for restraint and calm. As I underscored in my visit to Hebron last week, I would like to see more positive steps by Israel to enable Palestinian development and state-building in the area and throughout the West Bank, reflecting a genuine commitment to the two-State solution,” he added of the internationally endorsed plan for Israel and Palestine to live side by side in peace and security.
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