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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Jerusalem mayor says he is working to resolve tax dispute

Lebanon throws its support behind Jerusalem's protesting Christian leaders

A visitor prays outside the closed gate to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City quarter of Jerusalem, on February 26, 2019. Abir Sultan / EPA
A visitor prays outside the closed gate to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City quarter of Jerusalem, on February 26, 2019. Abir Sultan / EPA

Jerusalem's mayor says he is working to solve the tax dispute that has led to the closure of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Mayor Nir Birkat said on Tuesday that he is negotiating alongside a third party but declined to identify who it is.

Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and other Christian leaders on Sunday closed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to protest Mr Barkat's decision to force them to pay property taxes.

Mr Barkat says the taxes apply only to "commercial properties," and not houses of worship.

Church officials say they were blindsided by the decision.

Mr Barkat says his decision is in line with practices common around the world.

Lebanon on Tuesday threw its support behind Christian leaders in Jerusalem.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said that the church was rightfully defying measures by the Israeli government.

“We are in solidarity with Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine, and its people to protect Christian presence in the holy city,” Mr Hariri tweeted on Tuesday.

Christian officials said the church would remain locked indefinitely to pressure Israel to reverse its measures.

Dozens of disappointed pilgrims gathered outside the church on Monday.

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Church of the Holy Sepulchre keeps doors locked in protest

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Churches fear the expropriation bill will make it harder for them to sell their property, the proceeds of which are vital to church activities. The new tax is also seen as a financial blow to the churches.