Rome (AsiaNews) – The Israeli President Shimon Peres is “quite optimistic” regarding negotiations between Israel and the Holy See and has declared that “within the years end the most important problems will be resolved”. Answering a question put forward by AsiaNews, during a press conference, he also said that he had invited Benedict XVI to visit Israel.
In his first foreign visit as president, Peres was received in audience today by the pope in Castel Gandolfo and also met with Secretary of State Card. Tarcisio Bertone, Msgr. Dominique Mamberti, and Secretary for relations with states and Oded Ben Hur, Israeli ambassador to the Holy See.
According to a Vatican press office statement, discussions focused on the possibilities for peace between Israel and Palestine in the “the current international climate, which appears to be particularly favourable”. In November in fact, there will be a peace conference in Washington. The Vatican hopes that “each of the parties involved will do all in their power to meet the expectations of the populations, bowed by crises that has lasted for over 60 years now and which continues to sow the seeds of death and destruction”.
In order to study “common initiatives in favour of peace”, the pontiff also met today with Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud Al Faisal. Saudi Arabia and the Arab League have long put forward a peace programme for the Middle East.
On the long standing question of the implementation of the Fundamental Agreement, 13 years on from its signing, the Holy See statement urges “a rapid conclusion to the important ongoing negotiations and the beginning of a constant dialogue with Israeli Authorities and local Christian communities, in view of their participation in working for the common good”.
September 3 last –after a long summer pause – and after years of deadlock, negotiations between the Holy See and Israel recommenced. They aim to lead to an agreement regarding issues of taxation and Church properties, which have been waiting implementation since ’93.
The Vatican statement makes no reference whatsoever to a possible visit by Benedict XVI to Israel, even if the pope has already expressed a positive opinion in the past. Peres told journalists that he was “moved” by the pope’s reaction to his proposal and defined Benedict XVI as “great spiritual figure”, underlining that “the Spirit” incarnated in the religions can give an important impulse to peace and the elimination of violence, “assassins and killings”.
According to Peres, Hamas extremism and Iranian interference in the region are the cause of the blocked peace process. “Hama’s –he said – is not looking for a political solution, but an ideological one: the destruction of our nation”. The Israeli president instead, expressed his trust in the President of the Palestinian Authority, Abou Mazen, and his commitment to the November peace conference. Peres revealed that it will not only focus on political issues (two peoples – two states), but also on the question of collaboration in the economic and ecological field.