Nativity church first step in Palestinian UNESCO campaign

The Palestinian Authority plans to build on its recent victory at the UN's cultural arm and campaign for other sites in the West Bank to be designated "endangered".

Last week UNESCO members voted in favour of the PA's bid to have the Church of the Nativity world granted world heritage status.

The Palestinians, who gained membership to UNESCO last year, submitted the request "on an emergency basis". The move drew criticism from the US and Israel, with its delegate calling the decision "totally political" and damaging to the body's reputation.

Riad Malki, the PA's Foreign Minister, said the fact that 13 UNESCO countries backed the vote on the Bethlehem church was a step toward independent statehood for the Palestinians.

He said recognition of the church was the start of a "long term project" that would include efforts to gain protected status for Mount Gerizim near Nablus and another holy site in Hebron.

Yigal Palmor, an Israeli government spokesman, said the Palestinian UNESCO campaign was "purely propaganda".

Last updated: 10:40am, July 4 2012