Armenian groups urge Jerusalem Patriarch to withdraw from deal leasing properties in the Old City to Israeli investor

Armenian groups urge Jerusalem Patriarch to withdraw from deal leasing properties in the Old City to Israeli investor
The Patriarch of Jerusalem’s Armenian Orthodox Church, Nourhan Manougian, allegedly signed a lease over a number of Christian Armenian properties to a Jewish Australian investor to make way for the building of a hotel in the occupied Old City.
3 min read
21 May, 2023
Armenian groups say that the signing of the lease could pose a threat to Jerusalem's Armenian Quarter [Getty]

A number of Armenian groups on Saturday have decried the actions of Jerusalem’s Armenian Orthodox Church Patriarch's involvement in property agreements with Israeli investors, demanding he withdraws from the deal.

Three groups, Homenetmen, Hoyetchment and Paresiradz, issued a joint statement demanding to see the controversial lease signed by Nourhan Manougian, who was suspended last week by both the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Jordan from his role following allegations of being involved in "unlawful" real estate deals.

The Jerusalem-based Armenian clubs said they reject the signing of the lease, which they described as "detrimental" to the status quo of the Armenian Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City. The groups called for Manougian to retract his signature.

"We urge the Patriarch to revoke the contract and rescind all other promised contractual deals regarding the Cows' Garden and the Armenian properties in general because the Armenian Quarter is the natural link to other Quarters in Jerusalem," they said.

The groups say that Manougian leased the Hadiqat al-Baqar (Cow’s Garden) building as well as surrounding properties to an Israeli Australian investor, possibly linked to a private Israeli company called Xana Gardens.

The properties were reportedly leased for 99 years in order to make way for the building of a luxury hotel in the area.

In their statement, the groups demanded transparency from the Patriarch over why he signed the contract, saying that clarity will aid them to revoke any illegal contracts.

“This will create an enhanced environment for Jerusalem Armenians to flourish, prosper and develop against all attempts of illegal seizure of Armenian properties,” they said.

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On Friday, a group of Armenians held a sit-in in the square of the Armenian monastery, where the properties are based, for the second week in a row, demanding that the Patriarch reveal the details of the lease.

Hagob Djernazian, one of the organisers, said that the land loss "will be a big blow to Armenians," as cited by the Jordanian website Milhilard.

"If we lose this land, we will lose 25 percent out of 100 from the Armenian Quarter," he added.

According to Armenian media, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians His Holiness Karekin II spoke with the Patriarch via telephone in a bid to discuss "the alarming circumstances" that could occur as a result of the lease.

The deal, according to Jordanian state media, was carried out despite several attempts from relevant Armenian groups to discuss the deal with Manougian, who allegedly "ignored" their demands.

The Aleppo-born Patriarch’s actions "violated" United Nations Security Council and National Assembly resolutions put in place to protect the status of the Armenian Quarter, according to Palestinian and Jordanian authorities.

The Armenian groups also extended their "gratitude" to King Abdullah II and Mahmoud Abbas, who they said "reaffirmed" their commitments to the integrity of Jerusalem’s Armenian Quarter, following their suspension of the Patriarch.

The Palestinian Authority and Jordan intervened in the matter as the transfer of any land or properties in Jerusalem could enable Israel to claim their ownership, which could alter the landscape of Jerusalem’s Old City.

The Armenian Quarter is one of the Old City's four sectors, which is home to most of the occupied city's Palestinian-Armenian community.