Abbas and Abdullah sign Jerusalem protection pact
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Abbas and Abdullah sign Jerusalem protection pact

Palestinian leader and Jordanian king agree to ‘defend’ the city’s holy sites, ‘both Christian and Muslim’

King Abdullah II of Jordan, left, welcomes Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas after his arrival at the Royal Palace in Amman, Jordan, in March, 2013. (AP Photo/ Raad Adayleh)
King Abdullah II of Jordan, left, welcomes Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas after his arrival at the Royal Palace in Amman, Jordan, in March, 2013. (AP Photo/ Raad Adayleh)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordanian King Abdullah II have signed an agreement to “defend Jerusalem and its holy sites,” the Ma’an news agency reported on Sunday afternoon.

Abbas flew to Amman on Sunday to discuss religious issues with the Jordanian king, in a meeting attended by the religious affairs ministers of both the Palestinian Authority and Jordan.

Ma’an quoted Palestinian Authority Religious Affairs Minister Mahmoud al-Habash as saying that Abbas and Abdullah discussed ways to coordinate in order to protect religious sites in Jerusalem — both Christian and Muslim.

The agreement, he said, confirmed both Jordan’s role as protector of the city’s holy sites and “Palestinian sovereignty over all of Palestine, including its capital East Jerusalem.”

A statement from Jordan’s royal palace confirmed that Abbas has committed to a special Jordanian role in caring for holy shrines in Jerusalem.

The move is symbolic — Jordan’s 1994 peace treaty with Israel recognizes Jordan’s role as custodian of Christian and Muslim shrines in the city, which Israel captured from the kingdom in the Six-Day War.

The Palestinians still have no official say on Jerusalem. The fate of the city and its shrines is to be determined in final status talks with Israel, which broke down two years ago.

The statement said the agreement signed Sunday between Abbas and Abdullah confirms a verbal deal brokered in 1924.

On Friday, a leading Hebron cleric accused Israel of plotting to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque and rebuilding the Jewish Temple on its ruins. He called US President Barack Obama’s statements — saying that Jerusalem is the Jewish capital — a “declaration of war” preparing the ground for the Judaization of all of Jerusalem, the eastern part of which is viewed by the Palestinians as their future capital.

Last week, the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, proposed creating a $1-billion fund for the defense of Jerusalem’s Arab identity. He said Qatar would contribute $250 million to the fund, adding that he expected other Arab nations to come up with the rest.

“The Palestinian, Arab and Muslim rights in Jerusalem are not negotiable and Israel must realize this,” said the emir.

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