Pope renews call for two-state solution after meeting with Abbas
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Pope renews call for two-state solution after meeting with Abbas

In statement, Vatican expresses concern over status of Jerusalem; ‘We are counting on you,’ Palestinian leader tells Francis

Pope Francis (R) speaks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the end of a private audience at the Vatican, on December 3, 2018. (Photo by Andrew Medichini / POOL / AFP)
Pope Francis (R) speaks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the end of a private audience at the Vatican, on December 3, 2018. (Photo by Andrew Medichini / POOL / AFP)

The Vatican on Monday reaffirmed its longstanding call for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict following a visit by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, as the US said it was preparing to present its long-awaited peace plan.

Abbas met for 20 minutes Monday with Pope Francis and then the Vatican Foreign Minister Monsignor Paul Gallagher.

The Vatican said the talks focused on efforts to reactivate the peace process “and to reach a two-state solution, hoping for a renewed commitment on the part of the international community to meet the legitimate aspirations of both peoples.”

A Vatican statement said Jerusalem must remain a holy city for Christians, Muslims and Jews.

“Particular attention was reserved for the status of Jerusalem, underlining the importance of recognizing and preserving its identity and the universal value of the holy City for the three Abrahamic religions,” the Vatican said, according to Reuters.

It was the first meeting between Francis and Abbas since the US transferred its embassy and recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Pope Francis (L) speaks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the end of a private audience at the Vatican, on December 3, 2018. (Photo by Andrew Medichini / POOL / AFP)

In the past year, the Trump administration has infuriated the Palestinian Authority by making the embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, cutting hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians, defunding the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, and closing the PLO representative office in Washington.

The Argentine pontiff has voiced strong opposition to Trump’s controversial Jerusalem decision. In a February letter to Egypt’s top Muslim cleric, Ahmed al-Tayeb, Francis said that “only a special status, guaranteed by the international community, can preserve [Jerusalem]’s identity, and unique vocation as a place of peace.”

As the Pope’s meeting with Abbas ended, the Palestinian leader said: “We are counting on you,” without elaborating.

Later Monday, Abbas met Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in Rome to discuss “the latest developments” in the Middle East, the official PA news site Wafa reported.

Many officials in US President Donald Trump’s administration have said the US intends to publish a plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict early next year.

Last week, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said a US peace proposal would be released “at the appropriate time.”

Netanyahu has said he will look at the apparently forthcoming peace plan with an “open mind,” while Abbas has vowed not to consider any US proposal.

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