Pope renews call to maintain Jerusalem status quo
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Pope renews call to maintain Jerusalem status quo

Vatican says international monitoring the only way to preserve ‘unique nature’ of capital city, urges renewal of peace process

Pope Francis prays at the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, in Jerusalem's Old City on May 26, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Thomas Coex)
Pope Francis prays at the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, in Jerusalem's Old City on May 26, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Thomas Coex)

Pope Francis has again stressed the importance of preserving the status quo in Jerusalem, and urged fresh talks between Israel and Palestinians based on a two-state solution, the Vatican said Thursday.

The Argentine pontiff strongly opposed US President Donald Trump’s controversial move to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and his plans to move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv.

Referring to “the unique nature of Jerusalem” in a letter to Egypt’s top Muslim cleric, Ahmed al-Tayeb, Francis said that “only a special status, guaranteed by the international community, can preserve its identity, (and) unique vocation as a place of peace.”

Only that “would allow a future of reconciliation and hope for the entire region,” he said.

“The Holy See will not cease from urgently calling for dialogue to resume between Israelis and Palestinians for a negotiated solution aimed at the peaceful coexistence of two states,” the letter continued.

US President Donald Trump, left, and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas shake hands during a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (AFP/MANDEL NGAN)

Trump’s December 6 announcement recognizing Jerusalem sparked violent protests by Palestinians in the West Bank and along the Gaza border, who see the eastern part of Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has has openly cursed Trump over the move and has refused to meet with US President Mike Pence when he arrives in the region next week for an official visit.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration this week said it was sharply reducing funding to the UN aid agency serving millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants, blaming the Palestinians for lack of progress in Mideast peace efforts.

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