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Israel censures Chilean president for visiting Temple Mount with Palestinians

By
Nicholas Sakelaris
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) listens to Chilean President Sebastian Pinera during statements to the press at his office in Jerusalem. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) listens to Chilean President Sebastian Pinera during statements to the press at his office in Jerusalem. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo

June 26 (UPI) -- Israel's foreign ministry censured Chilean President Sebastian Pinera for his visit to Jerusalem's Old City and the Temple Mount, saying it violates sovereignty and diplomatic procedures.

Pinera was accompanied by Palestinian officials during his visit, which further inflamed the situation. The ministry said it had reached an agreement with Chile to avoid bringing Palestinian officials to that hotly disputed area.

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Israel claims that the Temple Mount in East Jerusalem is part of its undivided capital despite claims by Palestinians that it should be part of the future Palestinian state. Many countries don't recognize Israel's sovereignty over that part of the city, also called the Old City.

"The Foreign Ministry views any infringement of Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount as serious and a violation of clear procedures," the Foreign Ministry said. "We must distinguish between absolute freedom of worship ... and the preservation of our sovereignty over the Temple Mount."

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Chile is home to the largest Palestinian population outside the Middle East. Pinera's delegation from Chile includes Palestinians and Jews.

Pinera's visit included stops at the Western Wall, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem. On Wednesday, he visited Israel Aerospace Industries, the Hadassah Medical Center and Ein Karem.

On Thursday, he was scheduled to visit the Palestinian Authority and the grave of former Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat.

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In November, Chile's parliament approved a resolution boycotting further Israeli settlements and recognizes a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders. Israel captured East Jerusalem in the Six Day War in 1967 and has since annexed it.

Although President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017, he said in a statement: "we are not taking a position of any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved."

The U.S. Embassy was moved to Jerusalem last year.

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An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Trump recognized the annexation in 2017.

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