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Oman's foreign minister in rare visit to Jerusalem holy site Aqsa

Jerusalem is sacred to all three Abrahamic religions [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 February, 2018

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In a rare visit to Jerusalem's holy site, Oman's foreign minister encouraged all Arabs to visit the mosque, describing it as an "obligation".
In a rare visit by an Arab official, Oman's foreign minister made a stop at the holy al-Aqsa compound on Thursday after holding talks with Palestinian leaders in the occupied West Bank.

Yusuf bin Alawi visited the holy mosque in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, according to AFP.

Alawi's visit comes in the wake of US president Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city.

Jerusalem's status has been a central issue in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Trump's pivotal move drew widespread criticism from US allies in the Arab and Muslim world, as well as in Europe and beyond.

Such a visit normally requires coordination with Israeli officials, however an Israeli foreign office spokesman said he was unaware of the visit and could not immediately comment.

Oman and Israel hold no diplomatic relations, as is the case with the majority of the Arab world.

"It is the duty of Arabs to visit the mosque if they can," Alawi said as he visited the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa mosque.

Most Arab governments prohibit their citizens from visiting Palestine, considering dealing with Israel and recognising its authority as "normalisation" of the illegal occupation.

Some also believe the promotion of Israel as a cultural travel hub distracts from the Palestinian conflict, in which Israel enforces an oppressive and deadly siege, with checkpoints and demolitions, fuelling economic struggle and growing indignities.

Alawi and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas had met earlier in the day in Ramallah.

The compound is sacred to both Muslims and Jews, with Muslims viewing it as the third-holiest site in Islam. The hill, referred by Jews as Temple Mount is the most sacred place in Judaism as temples in the biblical era.

Israel regards Jerusalem as its capital, a position nearly the entire world rejects saying its status should be determined in peace talks with the Palestinians.

Under international law East Jerusalem is considered occupied Palestinian territory.

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