Israeli takes court action against Belgium to recover rent

23rd December 2008, Comments 0 comments

Art Deco consulate building in Jerusalem is at the centre of a legal row.

BRUSSELS - Belgium's Art Deco consulate building in Jerusalem is at the centre of a legal row, the foreign ministry confirmed Monday, as an Israeli businessman seeks two million euros in rent arrears.

The Villa Salameh, as the building built in 1930 by French architect Marcel Favier is known, was owned by a rich Palestinian businessman, Constantin Salameh, who fled for Lebanon during the Arab-Israeli conflict in 1948.

He later rented the neo-classical masterpiece to Belgium.

According to Le Soir newspaper, Israel, under a law on buildings owned by Palestinians living in exile, offered 700,000 dollars (500,185 euros) to Salameh in 1983 in damages, but he declined.

The Jewish state then sold the villa to an Israeli businessman, David Sofer, whom Le Soir said is demanding two million euros (2.8 million dollars) in rental arrears.

Belgium, however, does not recognise the Israeli law and continues to pay rent to Salameh's estate.

But the Belgian ambassador in Jerusalem, Benedicte Frankinet, was summoned to the Israeli foreign ministry last week and warned that Sofer had been authorised to take legal action against Belgium.

The Belgian foreign ministry played down the issue.

"We do indeed have a legal dispute," spokesman Bart Ouvry said. "But we are looking for a diplomatic solution to this."


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