PRESIDENT OF Palestine Mahmud Abbas held a private audience with Pope Francis on Thursday (4/11) and met with senior Vatican officials who stressed the importance of continuing peace talks with Israel.
Abbas, who has met the Pope several times before, spoke with Foreign Minister Cardinal Pietro Parolin and de facto Foreign Minister Paul Gallagher on a trip to Rome which also included a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
The Vatican later said: “It has been stressed that it is absolutely necessary to reactivate direct dialogue in order to achieve a two-state solution also with the help of the more vigorous efforts of the international community.
“This reaffirms that Jerusalem must be recognized by all as a place of meeting and not of conflict. Its status must maintain its identity and its universal value as a holy city for the three Abrahamic religions.”
The Israeli coalition led by the new hard-core nationalist prime minister, Naftali Bennett, is not in the same position to end the decades-long Palestinian conflict. This complicates any formal diplomatic negotiation.
But a recent visit to Abbas by three Israeli ministers shows that both sides are interested in promoting stability and improving relations, even if peace talks remain off the table for the time being.
At the Vatican on Thursday, the Pope and Abbas exchanged gifts and then held hands as Abbas wished the Pope good health and strength in the future, according to images released by the Vatican.
According to Vatican News, during their sixth meeting in the Vatican, the Abbot gave the Pope an amber depiction of the Grotto of the Nativity or underground grotto in Bethlehem where Christians believe Jesus was born.
During his trip, Abbas also met Italian Prime Minister Draghi and the country’s Head of State, President Sergio Mattarella.
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During their meeting on Wednesday, Draghi expressed support for the resumption of bilateral dialogue and a just, lasting and negotiated two-state solution, the prime minister’s office said. (AFP / OL-14)