U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday Israeli and Palestinian leaders need to clarify the status of Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound to help end a spate of bloodshed and restore stability.
Kerry, preparing for meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Germany and then with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah, likely in Amman, also rejected a proposal by France at the United Nations for an international observer presence at the holy site.
Israel called in France’s ambassador on Monday to make clear its opposition to the idea, a foreign ministry spokesperson said.
“Israel understands the importance of the status quo and … our objective is to make sure that everyone understands what that means,” Kerry told a news conference in Madrid.
The Palestinians’ unrest, the most serious in years, has been stirred in part by anger over what they see as increased Jewish encroachment on the mosque compound, Islam’s most sacred site outside Saudi Arabia and also revered by Jews as the location of two destroyed biblical Jewish temples.
Netanyahu has said his government is committed to maintaining the status quo at the compound, which has long been under Muslim religious administration while Jews are permitted to visit the site but not pray there.
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