Aram I Issues Statement Condemning Israel

ANTELIAS–The Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem appealed last week to Israeli Supreme Court to overrule the Israeli government’s decision to use part of the property of the Armenian Church in Holy Land as a crossing line of the security fence–which would prevent Palestinian terrorists to cross into Israeli territory. The construction of the 350 km security wall has already started and the Cabinet of Ariel Sharon decided that the wall should pass through the territory of the Armenian Church in Jerusalem called "Baron Der". Sharon’s government has notified the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem that the security wall will occupy a belt 27 meters wide and 300 meters long crossing the Armenian land and its decision is irreversible.

"We have no choice but to appeal to the Supreme Court of Israel–as well as to the world media and public," the spokesman for the Armenian Patriarchate–who asked not to identified–told RFE/RL last Thursday. The Armenian Church in Jerusalem complained that after the construction of the wall–the Church will virtually lose all its territories because the remaining land will become unusable and will simply become a buffer zone.

The stand-off between the Armenian Patriarchate and the Israeli government led to public and official protest in the Capital of Armenia–Yerevan. Armenian foreign ministry has sent a letter of protest last week–demanding an explanation from Sharon’s government asking to reverse its decision.

The "Der Baron" property–which was purchased in 1641 serves as a summer residence for the patriarchate and is located in Bethlehem and borders the Jerusalem municipality. Despite its small congregation–the Armenian church is the largest landowner in the Old City and has substantial holdings in the Israeli coastal city of Jaffa and in Jewish west Jerusalem–where it owns much of the central shopping district.

Aram I–Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia–delivered a public statement condemning the behavior of the government of Israel. "The forceful usurpation of land and property and the violation of individual rights has always been an important component of Israeli diplomacy," announced the Catholicos.

"The offensive stance adopted by Israel since its establishment towards her Arab neighbors is familiar to the world. Israel’s policy of forceful takeover and expansionism continues in front of an international audience–neglecting the rights of peoples–international laws–and the decisions of the United Nations," the Catholicos said.

"It is not possible to remain silent about this issue. Such encroachment and the neglect of human rights are unacceptable in today’s civilized world. Attempts to extirpate the rights of others through the use of military force are alien to international laws and will never benefit the improvement of bilateral relations and the attempts of establishing trust amongst the parties and peace and justice within the region. The Israeli army must withdraw from the lands and holy site belonging to the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The Israeli army must withdraw from occupied Palestinian territories. The use of force can not lead the Middle-East to peace–but will only produce a new round of bloodshed. Bilateral discussion based around understanding–respect and trust can only guide the Middle-East to perpetual peace."


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