UNESCO said Monday it will for the first time consider a Palestinian site for its World Heritage List, after the Palestinians controversially joined the U.N. heritage body last year.
UNESCO said in a statement that its World Heritage Committee will consider Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity for inclusion on the prestigious list during its next meeting, from June 24 to July 6, in Saint Petersburg.
“Palestine, which became a member of UNESCO in October 2011 and subsequently ratified the World Heritage Convention, will be presenting its first site for inscription on the World Heritage List,” UNESCO said.
The full site to be listed would be the “Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem,” UNESCO said.
The church is the most visited tourist site in the Palestinian Territories, welcoming 1.5 million visitors in 2010.
The Palestinians were admitted to UNESCO in October, when its general assembly voted 107-14 to make Palestine its 195th member.
The result angered the United States, Israel’s staunch ally, which says the Palestinians must reach a peace agreement with the Jewish state before they can become full members of an international organization.
Israel and the United States subsequently cut funding to UNESCO, depriving the organization of 22 percent of its revenues.
The committee will consider 36 sites for inclusion on the World Heritage List at the Saint Petersburg meeting, UNESCO said.