The Israeli Foreign Ministry has rebuked Chilean President Sebastián Piñera for visiting Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem in “violation of protocol and clear agreements,” Haaretz reported.
Piñera yesterday visited Al-Aqsa while accompanied by Palestinian officials, which, according to the Foreign Ministry, went against an earlier agreement with Chile. They added that “one must separate between complete religious freedom, which Israel insists on upholding, and the maintenance of our sovereignty over the Temple Mount.” Foreign officials normally coordinate their visits to Al-Aqsa with Israeli officials.
For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world’s third holiest site after Mecca and Medina. Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the “Temple Mount”, claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.
Al-Aqsa is administered by the Islamic Waqf but secured by Israeli police. Recently, there has been a surge of Israeli aggression in Jerusalem, with settlers storming the mosque under the protection of Israeli police and repeated bans for Palestinians.
Israel has illegally occupied East Jerusalem, where Al-Aqsa Mosque is located, since the 1967 war. In 1980, the Jewish state annexed the entire city, claiming it as its “eternal and undivided” capital, a move never recognised by the international community.
Piñera is scheduled to meet with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later today. He is set to visit Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah tomorrow before departing in the afternoon to Japan, for the G-20 Summit in Osaka.
Chile historically has strong relations with Palestine and is home to the world’s largest Palestinian community outside of the Middle East, amounting to around 500,000 people.
Last year, Abbas made an official visit to Chile, during which Piñera said: “Palestine has the right and the support of Chile to be a free, independent, sovereign and autonomous country, and the Palestinian people have the right to self-determination.”
Chile also supported UN resolution 67/19, which upgraded Palestine to non-member observer state status in the UN, and has officially recognised the State of Palestine since January 2011.