Wed 27 Sep 2023 5:22 pm - Jerusalem Time
Saudi envoy 'cancels Al-Aqsa visit' due to sensitivity of the matter
Saudi Arabia's non-resident ambassador to Palestine postponed a planned visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque on Wednesday, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
The cancellation came amid criticism made by some Palestinians on social media, who viewed the visit as validating the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem.
Some called for the Saudi delegation to be prevented from entering the mosque.
Quoting a Palestinian source in Ramallah, Haaretz reported that Nayef al-Sudairi, the Saudi ambassador, postponed the visit after hearing "about the sensitivity of the matter" and understanding the "criticism and implications" surrounding it.
The Israeli daily newspaper added that the diplomat planned to visit the mosque at a later date.
The Wednesday visit was not officially announced and was not coordinated with the Islamic Waqf, a joint Jordanian-Palestinian Islamic trust, Haaretz added.
The Waqf administers the affairs of Al-Aqsa Mosque and often handles visits by official delegations.
Sudairi, who is also Riyadh's ambassador to Jordan, arrived in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday to meet with Palestinian officials.
During his visit, the first by a Saudi official to the West Bank since the Palestinian Authority (PA) was established, Sudairi met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki and top PLO official Hussein Al-Sheikh.
Sudairi said the kingdom was "working towards establishing a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital".
His trip comes against the backdrop of a warming of ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Deals to establish formal ties between Arab states and Israel are unpopular among Palestinians and supporters of the Palestinian cause.
They are viewed as rewarding Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians, which UN experts and rights groups say amounts to apartheid.
Sudairi's entry to the West Bank and the now-cancelled visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque would not be possible without the consent of Israeli authorities.
Getting such approvals is seen by many Palestinians as a tacit acceptance of Israeli control over the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which are both under illegal Israeli occupation.