Greece Denounces Ateret Kohanim’s Intrusion into Greek Patriarchal Property as ‘Illegal’ — Greek City Times

The Greek Foreign Ministry on Tuesday called the intrusion of a hotel in Jerusalem’s Old City by the Jewish settler organization Ateret Kohanim “unlawful”.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is closely following developments regarding the issue of illegal intrusion by members of the settler organization Ateret Kohanim into the Little Petra Hotel, which is located at the entrance to the Christian Quarter of the Old City. of Jerusalem and is owned by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem,” the Ministry said in a statement.

“We express our particular concern at this development,” the statement continued.

“About this file, Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias contacted his Israeli counterpart, Yair Lapid, to whom he asked that the file be resolved as soon as possible,” the ministry notification concludes.

For its part, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem said Sunday that Israeli settlers breaking into church property in Jerusalem’s Old City could trigger a turbulent scenario.

According to the Patriarchate’s statement, on Saturday evening, individuals with Ateret Cohanim broke into the Little Petra Hotel, which overlooks Omar Bin al-Khattab Square near Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City.

The hotel is traditionally a resting place for Christian pilgrims and a local exchange office owned by the Patriarchate and rented by a Palestinian from Jerusalem at the entrance of the hotel.

“This act of trespassing was committed unlawfully and constitutes an assault on local businesses and property in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem. The actors did not have an eviction notice and therefore took the law into their own hands and subsequently committed a criminal offence,” the Patriarchate said in its statement on the trespass.

He noted that there were reports that Israeli police officers intentionally ignored Ateret Cohanim’s illegal activities at the hotel.

The Patriarchate warned of this “extremely dangerous” break-in and warned of its stability implications.

“This act is extremely dangerous because it concerns community relations on the ground. Acting in this unlawfully aggressive manner against known Christian property and Arab business – particularly ahead of Easter and Ramadan – could likely trigger local hostilities similar to those seen last year in Sheikh Jarrah. Not to mention the timing of Mati Dan and his organization, Ateret Cohanim, on the eve of Secretary Blinken’s arrival in the region.

While the Patriarchate said it spared no effort to stop such intrusions and takeovers through legal means, it expressed concern that such intrusions could trigger a very turbulent scenario.

“In response to this illegal activity, local residents, merchants and priests are demanding definitive action. Patriarch Theophilus III consulted extensively with the Council of Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem and received advice from all quarters. The Church is doing everything it can to stop these actions, protect the tenants, and reach a legal and peaceful resolution. However, there is tremendous pressure to address these actions in powerful ways. The Church fears that some actions will quickly escalate and trigger a very turbulent scenario in the Old City. »

The Patriarchate called on the Israeli police to “act fairly” and not turn a blind eye to such criminal activities.

“As this was an illegal break-in without any legal process or due process, the Patriarch and Church Leaders call on the Jerusalem Police to act fairly and in accordance with their authority. It has been reported that the police do not want to get involved in the matter, but standing idly by is not an appropriate response in the face of criminal activity, especially that which is ongoing. The Patriarch asks the police to act to evict Ateret Cohanim and to restore the situation as it was before the break-in until the ongoing legal proceedings are completed and finalized.

In June 2019, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that Ateret Cohanim has legal rights to three large areas strategically located in the Old City of Jerusalem, currently populated mainly by Arab residents.

In 2004, three foreign real estate companies signed under the veil of great secrecy three different contracts with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate which owned the assets.

The publication of the agreement in 2005 caused a crisis in the Greek Church of Jerusalem, which resulted in the unprecedented dismissal of Patriarch Irenaios Skopelitis.

His successor, Theophilus III, tried to deny the agreement and overturn it, but the Supreme Court upheld it, according to Ha’aretz.

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